Five Phases Of Calf Development
- Colostrum is VITAL for setting up the calves’ immune system. Colostrum can only build this during the first 24 hours of life. Most calves don’t drink enough off their mum. Tube feed 2L of colostrum/calf from a cow that has calved that day.
- When calves come into the shed spray their naval with iodine-based spray to prevent naval infections and record each calf’s birthweight.
Consider: TopCalf® Formula One
2. Milk feeding
- Offer small amounts of a starter meal (a handful per calf). Fresh is best.
- Feed two feeds of 2.5L of milk per day for the first 14 days to ensure that calves are receiving enough energy.
- If you are feeding Calf Milk Replacement (CMR), then make sure it has a coccidiostat to aid in the prevention of coccidiosis, an intestinal protozoan that can lead to death.
- Calves don’t die from scours – they die from dehydration. Provide milk AND necessary levels of electrolytes to help promote rehydration. Again, clean fresh water should always be readily available.
- Calves require protein and energy dense feeds during this first two weeks. There’s no need for hay just yet as it lacks nutrient density.
- Make sure housing is clean, warm, dry and draught free. Aim for 12-15 calves per mob. Avoid overcrowding for less stress on the calf and better performance and animal health outcomes.
- Make sure calves have 24-hour access to fresh water. If you wouldn’t drink out of the container, don’t expect your calves to.
Consider: TopCalf® Formula 20
3. Milk & Starter meals
- Calves don’t like rapid changes. Make sure changes are made slowly to allow the calves to adjust from milk to hard feeds.
- When choosing a starter meal, the starch content should be around 30-40% (DM) and sugar 5-8% (DM) to optimise early rumen development – rumen papillae and bugs.
- Make sure your meal has high quality, metabolisable protein ingredients (not PKE). Products such as soybean or canola are an ideal source. Select a meal that delivers 20% crude protein per kg DM to promote lean muscle and frame growth.
- Make sure your meal has a coccidiostat to aid in the prevention of coccidiosis.
- Although at times it’s hard, it is important to try and keep your feed bird and vermin free. Calves will consume the feed better if it’s fresh and clean.
Consider: TopCalf® Formula 20
4. Weaning from milk
- Introduce hay/straw to help promote rumen capacity and meet fibre requirements.
- Option of moving calves outside.
- Vaccinate with 7-in-1 to prevent animal health issues.
- Keep calves in small paddocks, keeping them grouped in smaller paddocks means less energy used running and greater weight gains.
- Offer hay and meal out in a weather proof place if possible. Discard meal if it gets wet.
- You must provide some sort of shelter calves can access during bad weather. This will help promote growth by the calf not having to spend so much energy keeping warm.
- Use segmented feeders to ensure calves are getting their share of milk.
- Some animal health procedures e.g. dehorning can cause stress and reduced appetite.
- Measure your calves’ height and hip width to ensure their frame is growing adequately for their age.
- Calf size does not indicate rumen function. Once calves are eating 1.2kg of a high starch meal for ten consecutive days then we can consider weaning.
5. Transition to pasture
- Once calves are weaned it is important to give an oral drench to provide protection against internal parasites.
- As the calf's rumen isn’t fully developed, it cannot use all of the crude protein in pasture. It’s important to offer a 20% protein meal for as long as you can before changing to a 16% protein meal. Calves need to have been on pasture for approximately two weeks before changing to a 16% meal.
- Calves need to gain on average 0.8kg/day every day until they come in to the herd as a 2-year old. If they don’t have enough metabolisable protein during the first 10 months of their life this will reduce their lifetime milk production and frame growth.
Consider: TopCalf® Formula 16