A successful calf rearing programme is essential

Dairy calf rearing

A successful calf rearing programme improves health status, reduces pre-weaning mortality and ensures a dairy heifer delivers its first calf before it reaches two years of age. A serious episode of, for example, scours may kill the calf, but even if it survives, the chances it will meet expectations with regard to future milk production are slim. Growth rates during the first 60 days of life determine the future production potential of a dairy cow. A slow growth during these first 60 days of life cannot be compensated by speeding up the growth later in life. A successful calf rearing programme is therefore essential for a profitable dairy farming operation.

Colostrum quality

More than 50% of freshly collected colostrum is of poor quality, caused by natural variation, the timing of the collection of milk or poor dry cow management. Calves are born without maternal immunity. Providing 4 litres of good quality colostrum directly after birth is an essential element of calf rearing. Calves need good quality colostrum to build immunity, stay healthy and grow well. Therefore it is crucial to measure colostrum quality and to apply protocols.

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Next to scours, respiratory disease is the second most important cause of neonatal calf death. Around 20-25% of dairy calves suffer from respiratory disease in the first year of their lives. Respiratory disease may result in permanent lung damage, resulting in a negative impact on growth and performance later in life.

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Scours is responsible for over half of neonatal calf deaths. In cases that do not result in death, it can lead to poor growth and poor performance, and a lot of work for the farmer. It is important to manage your calves to try to avoid diarrhoea problems on a dairy farm.

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