News & Advice

Keep calves cosy for the best start

Jun 3, 2020 | Dairy, Young Stock

Hanneke Officer, Anexa Vets Gordonton

With winter upon us and the start of calving, pay attention to how you feel in the morning: cold one last night mate, I’ll put an extra layer on, turn up the heater and enjoy a hot cuppa.

None of these are options for calves. They solely rely on the facilities you have for them and the care you give them. Remember this:

  • Calves are wet when born 
  • They have no innate immunity 
  • Calving often happens during the night (cold!) 

Not the best start to life aye? Optimise their chances by doing the following:

  • Twice daily pick up (at least) less exposure to climate conditions plus the chance to get colostrum into them within the first 12 hours of life.
  • Good quality colostrum  has the required amount of antibodies to provide newborn calves with immunity which will help them fight any challenges coming their way. Tube feed if needed shortly after pick up to ensure a good quality 2L feed. 
  • Spray their navels with iodine  and check over the next few days to make sure it’s drying up. 

Calf shed checks and procedures: 

  • Keep all equipment clean by washing daily (feeders), disinfect prior to going into pens (boots, overalls, gloves). 
  • Check at calf level for drafts and address if needed. 
  • Top up with clean, dry bedding frequently and spray 2-3 times a week with a product that kills viruses as well as bacteria. 
  • Solid partitions between pens to stop cross contamination. 
  • Keep bobby calves separate. 
  • Apply the all in all out system – once a pen is full, those calves stay together. If a calf is taken out for any reason, don’t add new calves to make up the numbers. 
  • Measure pens and make sure you have adequate space per calf (1.5 m2 and no more than 10-12 per pen). 
  • Have a dedicated sick pen to isolate any calf showing symptoms of ill health, feed these last and disinfect before and after entering. 
  • Supplying fresh, clean water daily, milk is not the only liquid they need!! 
  • Offer hay and meal from day 1.

For any help with layout or a preventative chat if last season presented you with problems, give us a call, we’re here to help.


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