Calf rearing

Basic calf management practices

New Calf Precautions

Proper calf rearing is the insurance for continuous dairy farming. Good management ensures a continuous replacement of spent stock with young and energetic stock. This is mainly by reducing calf mortality rate and cutting calving interval. The following precautions should be taken on newly born calf.

  • Check and clean mucus membranes on the nostrils of the new born calf if not already licked by the dam.
  • Tie and cut the naval cord and disinfect with the iodine solution
  • Examine for abnormalities and if present alert a veterinary doctor
  • Ensure that the newborn calf gets the first milk from its mother for at least 4 days.

Calf housing

Types of Calf Pens

In all cases the calf pen should be 1.3m wide by 1.0m high.

  1. Permanent calf pen with slatted floor should be 0.6m above the ground. Slats should be made of 2” x 2” timber separated at 0.5m apart and connected by 3”x 2” timber. This type of calf is very appropriate for zero grazing units. The calf stays in raised place and is kept dry and free of dung, urine and water.
  2. Permanent calf pens with cemented floor. These are actually cubicles, which are stone built at 1.5m long and 1.0m wide. The cubicle is sloped for free drainage.
  3. Mobile / portable calf pens. This is like permanent calf pen with slatted floor but is roofed as it is kept outside. Slats are not very necessary for this type as it is normally moved in pasture from point to point every 2 days and it is easy to

Calf Pen Hygiene

  • The pen should be properly cleaned and disinfected before restocking.
  • Dry straw should be provided on cemented floor preferably daily as beddings
  • A lot of sunlight should be allowed if the pens are in the house. Free movement of air should also be allowed.

Pen Equipment

Each calf pen should be provided with a water bucket, feeding trough and a place to put salt or salt lick.

Calf Feeding

a. Colostrums

  • All newly born calves should be allowed to suckle for the first 24 hours after which they should be introduced to bucket feeding.

b. Bucket Feeding Hygiene

  • The bucket should be thoroughly cleaned before feeding calves.
  • Milk should be at body temperature when it is fed to the calf. This done by warming it to about 37ºC.

c. Introduction of Roughage

  • Calves should be provided with good quality hay and fresh forage by the 3rd week to enable them calf to start developing its rumen

d. Milk Replacer

  • In all cases if a farmer has to feed milk replacers then it is absolutely necessary to follow manufacturers’ instructions for reconstitution and feeding.

Calf Weaning

a. Early Weaning

  • Calves are weaned at 12 weeks of age.

b. Late Weaning

  • Calves are weaned at 16 weeks of age.

c. Conditions to wean

  • The calf should be able to consume adequate amount of solid feed e.g. concentrates, hay and green forages.
  • Where the calf can be weighed it should have increased its girth (LW) by 2 ½ times the birth weight e.g. if a calf was born at 35 kg L.W. then it should be weaned at 90kg L.W.

d.  Weaning Method

  • Quantity of liquid diet is gradually reduced over a period of 10 days. Towards the end of the weaning period the calf may be given only one liquid meal per day.

Calf Feeding Schedule (Whole Milk & Concentrates)

a. One week of Age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed with colostrums plus adlib
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed colostrums plus adlib
  • No concentrates

b.  Two to three weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres milk per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres milk per day
  • No concentrates
  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres milk plus 0.25 kg / day EWP concentrates

d. Six to Seven Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres milk plus 0. 5 kg / day EWP concentrates

e. Eight to Nine Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 6 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 3 litres milk plus 0. 75 kg / day EWP concentrates

f. Ten to Eleven Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 5 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 3 litres milk plus 1. 0 kg / day EWP concentrates

g. Twelve to Thirteen Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 4 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 1. 5 kg / day YSP concentrates

h. Fourteen to Fifteen Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 2 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 2.0 kg / day YSP concentrates

i. Sixteen Weeks of age

  • For Late weaning a calf should be fed 2 litres per day
  • For Early weaning a calf should be fed 2.0 kg / day YSP concentrates

Notes on Weaning Schedule

  1. In late weaning it is assumed that the farmer is not able to get concentrate (a common situation in small scale conditions).
  2. In early weaning schedule concentrate are readily available and the price of milk is very good.
  3. In all cases the calf should be introduced to good quality hay and forage at 3rd week of age.
  4. It is good to feed calves in the mornings and evenings each day.
  5. For small breeds e.g. Jerseys and Zebu calves, the quantities of milk shown in the schedule may be too much to be fed. This should be reduced or fed three times a day.
  6. Clean fresh water should be made available to calves
  7. If diarrhoea is noticed during any of the feeding schedule then milk should be withdrawn for next 24 hours and institute remedial measures.
  8. In some places where milk prices are very good, there is a tendency of farmers underfeeding calves in milk so that they save milk for sale. This has negative effect on the growth of calves.

Other Calf Management Practices

Dehorning

a. When to Dehorn

  • Dehorning is done 2 to 3 months after calving or as soon as the horn bud is about one inch grown, we use disbudding iron or caustic stick.

b. How to use disbudding iron

  • Heat the dehorner stick until the iron is red hot