Improve Calf Health: Focus on Four Key Areas

Improving your calf health

Start by paying careful attention to four key areas:

  1. Colostrum Delivery - We should strive to milk fresh cows and deliver their colostrum as soon as possible after birth, ideally within two to four hours. Sanitation is a critical factor in this process because you don’t want to introduce vulnerable calves to bacteria along with their first feeding. Also, be sure to finish a colostrum (or colostrum replacer) feeding once it’s started via either bottle or esophageal tube feeder.
  2. Sanitation - Whatever you can do to create an environment of “fresh ground” will prove beneficial to new calves. Creating this fresh ground includes cleaning maternity pens between calvings, meticulously bedding and cleaning group pens, and providing at least 40 square feet per calf in group housing. Develop a simple, consistent routine for cleaning and sanitizing feeding equipment. This protocol should include physical cleaning to prevent buildup of biofilms. Work with your veterinarian or another adviser to routinely evaluate sanitation effectiveness of both housing and feeding equipment with adenosine triphosphate swabbing.
  3. Ventilation - Your ventilation goal should be to match the freshness of outdoor air as closely as possible. Hutches can offer this environment, although you may need to adjust vents for interior air movement. In hot weather, using blocks to elevate hutches can help create more air movement. In group housing, air quality becomes exponentially more important. Providing deep, dry, clean bedding and replacing it on a regular schedule is critical. Positive-pressure tube ventilation systems can help promote air quality.
  4. Nutrition - Having access to feedings around the clock results in routine gains of 2 pounds per day in their first 69 days of life. In comparison, pre-weaned dairy calves are traditionally raised with feeding rates as low as 4 quarts a day over two feedings.

Article is from Progressive Dairyman, May 2017

Tags: Calf Health, Management Tips