Raising Pre-Weaned Calves

Raising Pre-Weaned Calves
Adapted from Dr. Sheila McGuirk’s 5Cs of calf raising

  • Colostrum
    • Calves need 1 gallon (4 quarts) of fresh, clean colostrum within 6 hours of birth.
    • If the dam’s colostrum is not available, a colostrum REPLACER can be used. A replacer with at least 100g IgG is the minimum recommended. 150-200g IgG is ideal.
    • If the calf has not received colostrum by 24 hours, the calf is expected to have poor immune system the first 3 months of life and susceptible infections.
  • Calories
    • Calves should double their birth weight by weaning at 6 weeks.
    • Whole milk is equivalent to a 30% fat, 28% protein milk replacer (30:28).
    • Holstein calves should receive 3 quarts, twice per day of a 20% fat, 20% protein (20:20) milk replacer. A higher fat and protein milk replacer will accelerate their growth and frame size.
    • Jerseys and beef calves require a higher fat milk replacer. 2-3 quarts of a 28:20 milk replacer is recommended to grow the calves frame within the first 6 weeks of life.
    • Grain should be offered to calves by 1 week of age. A 20% protein starter grain with a coccidiostat (examples: Bovatec or Rumensin) is recommended. Calves should be consuming 2 lbs of starter grain per day at weaning.
    • A calf’s thermal neutral zone is between 32°F and 73°F. Calves are stressed when above or below these temperatures. More stress = more calories burned.
  • Cleanliness
    • Calves should be bedded regularly to keep them clean and dry.
    • Bottles, nipples and calf pens should be scrubbed with a brush to remove all organic material before being sanitized with a chlorine (bleach) like product. Use mixing recommendations according to the label for all sanitizing products. Some products are rendered ineffective if mixture is too dilute or too concentrated. If cryptosporidium (severe diarrhea at 7-10 days of age) is diagnosed as an issue, sanitizing with a chlorine di-oxide (Oxine) product is recommended.
  • Comfort
    • Good ventilation with little draft is essential to raising calves.
    • When temperatures are below the calf’s thermal neutral zone (32 °F), straw bedding that will cover the calf’s legs while its laying down is recommend.
    • Fresh, clean water should ALWAYS be available to calves. Calves with diarrhea can loose up to 7 LITERS of fluids per day. Free access to water is essential for survival during times of stress.
  • Consistency
    • Calves should be fed about the same time every day.
    • Milk replacer feeding directions should be followed to ensure each bottle is mixed consistently and at the same warm temperature.
    • Have the fewest number of people feed and treat calves as possible. This will help to keep protocols consistent and track fewer pathogens to the calf area.

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