Calf Care

The better start you give newborn calves, the more certain they will become healthy, productive cows. The future success of your farm depends on the success of your calf breeding management program.
Of course, it's not that easy. There are many health and nutritional challenges throughout the life cycle of dairy cows. But in the period before the birth of the calf and its first six months of life is the biggest challenge.
Well-developed mature heifers are generally easier to conceive, produce more milk in the first lactations, and live longer.

First day:

After birth, the newborn calf faces a world full of potential infections, nutritional and climatic challenges. The quality of the newborn calf's environment plays a key role in its future development and milk production.

What should you do?

Newborn calves should be cared for immediately after birth:
  • Make sure the calf is dry to avoid heat loss
  • Protecting it from cold climates by providing quality dry bedding
  • Immerse the navel with iodine solution
  • Weigh the calf
  • Give the calf at least 4 litres of colostrum by the first hour after birth
  • Protect the calf from wind drafts
  • Establish and follow hygiene protocols to avoid illness
  • After difficult births, follow the special treatment conditions for these calves
  • Check the condition and temperature of a newborn calf every 2 hours

First week: Calf development

The goal of the first week is to encourage the calf to start drinking milk. It is important that it is healthy and strong before being moved to another group. There are numerous health challenges during this period, so it is important to follow strict hygiene guidelines and keep a close eye on your animals.

What should you do?

Choose a calf rearing system that suits your farm and provides the following:
  • Good ventilation - clean air and draft-free environment
  • Regular cleaning of the beds
  • Constant temperature without cold and heat stress
Development of standard feeding practices that include:
  • Cleaning and disinfection, guaranteeing good hygiene at all times
  • Colostrum feeding for at least 4 days
  • Milk feeding station that allows the calf to easily suckle in its natural position
  • Feeder buckets with teat, making feeding easier and producing calmer animals
  • Provision of clean water, high quality milk and hay from the first week
  • Separate sick or weak calves until they recover and become vigorous
  • Equip them with DeLaval vests that help boost their growth and productivity

First month: Stimulating calf development

In the first month of the calf's life, it develops on the rumen and prepares for weaning. The calf will still be dependent on whole milk or milk powder, so milk feeding levels and programs should be adjusted according to calf weight, health and climatic conditions.
Faster growth rates can be achieved by providing larger portions of feed, spreading the amount evenly to avoid diarrhoea.

What should you do?
  • Daily monitoring and analysis of meals
  • Adjust the amount and temperature of the milk or milk substitute
  • Ensuring access to fresh water
  • Give enough space for movement and games
  • Observe calves for vigor and signs of illness
  • Use meat anesthetic when dehorning to eliminate pain

Second month: Stress-free weaning

At the beginning of the second month, the calf continues to be fed both milk and solid feed. Focus on maintaining good growth rates through regular feeding and daily health checks.
Muesli feeding is started, which helps to strengthen the calf and creates a condition for rapid hair growth in the calf's belly. During this period, calves continue to be sensitive to stress and diseases, so follow the following guidelines to avoid slowing down of growth.

What should you do?
  • Monitor the calves' daily feed rations
  • Start feeding the calves with muesli
  • Create hygienic conditions for group-breeded calves to limit disease transmission
  • Isolate sick animals

From third to sixth month: Nutrition to support good growth

During this period, it is important to ensure easy access to quality forage for high growth rates of calves. Remember that the growth of the calf during this period is not normal or is delayed and this can lead to later calving and lower milk yields in the future.

Food should be energy and protein rich. Malnutrition should be avoided as it will lead to stunted growth.

What should you do?
  • Body weight monitoring
  • Providing a well-balanced diet with a good ratio of protein to energy
  • Forage protein and energy analysis
  • Giving muesli and minerals