News & Advice

Managing the fresh calvers – crucial to a good season

Jun 30, 2022 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Minerals

Dave Curnow, Veterinarian, Anexa Vet Services Ngatea

A cow well set up, in good general health and with a good appetite are the key outcomes before leaving the colostrum mob. It’s no coincidence that most animal health issues occur in this time frame. Some of these problems are obvious (e.g. down cows) but a lot of production limiting disease may go unnoticed (i.e. subclinical).

The following are some useful management tips for the colostrum mob.



This starts with appropriate magnesium supplementation to the springer mob pre-calving. For farms that have custom springer transition mixes, addition of high quality minerals (both macro and trace minerals) is essential.

Calcium levels are generally low in the first 24 – 36 hours after calving, with older cows (6+) remaining low for longer. Giving ‘at-risk’ cows a calcium bolus or starter drench on the day of calving is a cost-effective way to treat and prevent sub-clinical hypocalcaemia (low blood calcium). Addition of lime flour in the colostrums will also help to reduce milk fever risk. This can be dusted at 200-300 grams per cow daily on a fresh break. It can also be mixed in with supplements, however, high levels of lime flour will not be palatable to cows and may result in reduced intakes of the supplement.

Magnesium is also crucial for colostrums. This may be dusted with the lime flour, mixed with supplement, drenched or added to the water. The chosen method will depend on what’s most effective and achievable with your farm setup.


Feed intake 

Freshly calved cows won’t have full appetite; they need to be offered plenty of food and higher grazing residuals will be needed. Use of low volume high quality supplements can help to maintain energy levels in these cows.


Once a day milking? 

OAD milking of colostrums may have some cow health benefits in terms of improved energy balance and less metabolics. It may also be a practical option for managing workload on farm and less metabolic disease..
If dry cow therapy has been used it is important that cows are out of the vat for the full 8 milkings (not 4 days) if milking once daily.



Get the cows milked out as soon as possible after calving. Time between calving to first milking is a big factor linked to mastitis risk. Early milk out also allows you to harvest more high (“gold”) quality colostrum for your calves. Colostrum deteriorates over time in the cow’s udder and so early removal ensures maximum quality colostrum.

Be vigilant about checking for mastitis. Strip cows at their first milking and use the RMT paddle at the end of the colostrum period to screen cows before they enter the milkers. If you have staff, then make this a farm policy. Ensuring only clean low SCC cows enter the milking mob will keep BTSCC low and is much easier than having to find a problem in the milkers.


and finally…. Recording 

Recording health issues in the Spring is important. Possible recording options include the LIC phone app or in your notebook. Records allow you to identify potential problems in your system which can then be addressed. For example: how many retained membranes did you have last season? Can you put a figure on it?? If not, how do you know if it’s a problem???

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