Step by step guide for newly born calf management

What’s important for newly born calves?

  1. Maximizing calf health (keeping bedding/facilities/equipment clean, dry and sanitized to reduce scouring and respiratory disease)
  2. Calf immune system development
  3. Promoting early starter intakes for good rumen development
  4. Reducing weaning stress
Step by step guide for newly born calf management
Step by step guide for newly born calf management

Challenges faced by newborn dairy calves:

Due to their underdeveloped immune systems at birth, calves are extremely susceptible to disease in their first two months of life. Scouring calves and/or calves experiencing respiratory disease have decreased performance, are at risk of re-infection and ultimately end up being poor performers in comparison to their healthy counterparts upon joining the lactating herd.

Tips for maximizing health and performance of dairy calves: 

Remember: Raising a healthy, productive calf starts before she’s born.

Calves need to be born into a clean, dry, well-ventilated environment with adequate amounts of dry bedding.

Be prepared for necessary birth assists.

Ensure that all calving equipment is clean, dry and sanitized.

Dip the navel with 7% tincture iodine as soon as possible after birth.

Remove the calf as soon as possible.

This helps to avoid injury from the dam and also aids in avoiding contamination from manure or other potential contaminants that may be present in the calving area.

Feed one gallon of high-quality colostrum within two hours of birth.

This provides essential antibodies and immune protection to the calf.

Cleanliness is key.

Proper hygiene is critical for young calves to thrive, especially in the first month of life, when their immune system is still developing.

Keep in mind that exposure to pathogens can be detrimental or even fatal in the first months of life.

Proper nutrition is critical.

Calves need to be offered a high-quality, highly palatable calf starter within the first three days of life.

Keep the calf starter fresh and clean. Avoid letting calf starter build up in calf buckets.

Consistent feeding of high-quality calf milk replacer or whole milk is essential for early calf performance. Follow the mixing and feeding directions closely.

Wean calves when they’re consistently consuming three pounds of calf starter per day for three days in a row.

Reduce stress.

Stressful events are hard on young calves and put them at risk of disease and decreased feed intake. Do not compound stresses.

Common stresses include calf handling, diet changes, pen movements, transportation, heat or cold stress and vaccinations.

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