Many of you send your calves away grazing at the beginning of December, and it’s tempting to cross them off the long list of things you have to think about. However this is still an important time for calves as they are growing rapidly, and there are management decisions that need to be made in order to prevent growth checks or ill-thrift.
Any change to calves’ routine is likely to have an impact on their growth. This includes weaning off milk and meal, yarding, injections, and transport. Stress can reduce their immune system and make them more susceptible to infection; here are some tips to reduce the risk of having ill-thrifty calves:
- There is no hard and fast rule about when to wean off meal, but it should be done slowly to give the rumen time to adjust and not at the same time as other stressful management changes.
- Using an oral white drench is usually cheaper and more effective in young calves, and has a lower risk of overdose compared to pour-on.
- Try to combine husbandry activities where possible to minimise yarding. If you know you’re getting the calves in to be drenched, why not vaccinate them at the same time?
- Wean calves off meal before they go grazing, so that you don’t combine the stress of weaning with the stress of transport.
- Because meal contains compounds to prevent infection with coccidia, sometimes we see outbreaks once meal stops. Monitor calves closely for scouring or ill-thrift after they finish meal.
Remember, calves that fall behind their growth targets often fail to catch up in time for mating and may have poorer reproductive performance than calves that meet targets. If you have any questions or would like help to create a management calendar for your young stock, contact your local Anexa FVC clinic.