For the first three or four days of its life, your calf should drink colostrum. Right from the start, your calf will need feeding twice a day – in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school. If you live on a dairy farm you can of course get cow’s milk to feed your calf. Many of you will need to purchase calf milk formula and mix it with warm water. It is very important to keep whatever equipment you use to feed your calf, completely clean – calves can get a tummy bug called scours (diarrhoea) from dirty feeding equipment, so clean everything after feeding with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
How much to feed
After feeding, your calf will look “full”, its tummy will be round and it will be happy, not calling for milk. A common rule is 10% of body weight, so a 40kg calf needs 4 litres each day or 2 litres twice a day. It is important to mix powders to the correct levels, so make sure you read the instructions on the packet carefully. Be sure to feed your calf at the same time each day, as it won’t take long for it to know when dinner time is!
Calf meal and hay
Your calf will grow quickly and begin to nibble grass and drink water. At around two weeks of age you will want to introduce calf meal and hay to its diet, so it grows well and stays in good condition. Meal is fed in the mornings, after the milk feed. You will need a large flat bottomed feeder for the meal, which your calf can’t push around the paddock. Although the supply of grass, meal and hay increases as your calf grows, it is still important to keep feeding milk as it ensures your calf will have a “bloom” on its coat when it competes at Ag Day.
At two or three weeks of age, milk feeding can be reduced to once a day preferably in the morning. The amount of milk generally increases so your calf is getting one larger drink of milk each day. Calves generally remain on ‘once a day’ milk feeds until after Group Day.
Fitting a calf cover
Calf covers serve two purposes – they keep your calf warm and dry and also flatten and polish its coat, preventing fading from the weather, meaning your calf will have a shiny coat when it gets to Ag Day. They can be purchased from your local veterinary centre or supply store, or you can make your own easily made from empty meal sacks – but first check that the sack is not made of plastic as it doesn’t “breathe”. A light soft blanket sewn into the inside of the cover will ensure your calf is warm. Velcro straps sewn onto the front and back will allow you to remove it easily for grooming and will also allow for an increase in size as your calf grows. The ideal cover should cover your calf from its shoulders to its rear. Be sure to watch for rubbing.
Fitting a halter
Calf halters and leads can be purchased from your local veterinary centre or supply store. They are made of soft leather and can be adjusted to fit very small and large calves. Halters are only left on for around one hour each day, leaving it on longer would rub hair off. As soon as possible after your calf arrives, fit the halter. When fitted correctly, you should be able to fit two fingers between any part of the halter and your calf’s skin. It should be firm if the calf pulls back.
The best time to put the halter on is just before feeding, when the calf is distracted by the milk and so will forget about the halter.
Ag Day Competition Calves
A Judge will be watching your calf to see how obedient it is, so you will want your calf to be leading well and obeying your instructions, to turn and stop. Never walk in front of your calf.
Rearing & Grooming
The Judge will be looking to see how well your calf has been reared (fed, groomed and cared for). You must present the calf in spotless condition.
- Clean, thoroughly brushed coat, so there are no loose hairs or dust.
- Clean feet and ears and around its nose and eyes and under its tail.
- Clean halter and lead.
The calf has to be well behaved and stand still to allow the Judge to run his/her hands over its body.
The Judge may ask you some questions about your calf – its name, when it was born, what breed it is, and what you have been feeding it etc.