Expert Calf Care Advice
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to caring for your calf. Every farmer will have a different experience and story to share when discussing the topic. What works on your farm, may or may not work on another but we are here to share some fantastic, expert calf care advice for anybody who may need a slight helping hand.
A good thing to do here is learning the behaviour of your calf. Learning what upsets them, stresses them out and makes them sick. These can be anything like a change in their routine, feed, crowding, and housing. Be sure to keep the improper handling of your calf to a minimum if any, alongside transporting, dehorning, and ear tagging, all of which are additional, unnecessary stress to place on a calf.
Practicing good personal hygiene when handling your calf is important in ensuring you don’t make your calf sick. Always wear clean clothing and ensure the same person handles the same calf’s each time. In terms of monitoring your calf, if you suspect your calf has a fever or is becoming sick, separate them from the rest of the group and use a rectal thermometer to check their temperature, act on this accordingly and contact a specialist if you feel this is necessary for the right diagnosis and treatment.
Monitoring Calf Growth
Preventing disease is important in monitoring calf growth, so the first step here is ensuring you have a happy, healthy cow. You need to be sure you’re measuring heart girth and wither height, weighing the calves, and checking their height using a yardstick. Typically, you should calculate their average daily gain and their percentage of weight gain, along with the average weight of the group to plot on a graph. This will make your job much easier.
Replace your calf feed every day with fresh, clean, calf starter followed by milk, and water. Make sure there is water on offer regularly for your calf’s and place the water in accessible areas outside the pen to avoid cross contamination with potential waste whilst ensuring the bedding area for your calf remains as clean as possible. Your calf’s need a good, high quality diet with poor nutrition contributing towards disease and low growth weight.
Housing for your calf’s needs to be well ventilated, with windows and space to move freely. Your calf housing should provide strong airflow, access for cleaning at ease, space for water and food, weather protection and warmth in the cooler months of the year. Ensure the housing drains water and urine so your calf stay nice and dry. Considering an open front shelter is handy for cleaning given the easy access. Ensure you place the shelter where it catches the summer breeze for more cooling in the warmer months as well as being exposed to sunlight in the winter for additional warmth. If you’re concerned about airflow you can remove panels from the rear in the warmer month to allow a steady flow of air through your calf hutch or pod.