One of the most important issues, because of it depends the future of the dairy farm, is the calf care. The breeding phase must receive adequate attention from the farmers although it does not constitute an immediate income, the producer must worry about genetically improving his herd, using bulls or semen of proven bulls, in such a way to replace their cows by younger ones with better potential.
Care of the calf begins before the birth. The fetus gains half of its weight in the last third of gestation of the cow, being the priority the use of the nutrients of the diet to guarantee the normal development of the calf. If the diet is deficient, the cow will use its own reserves to benefit the fetus.
Last three months: A cow’s weight gain of between 600 and 800 grams is recommended. Avoid extreme conditions, neither too fat nor too thin.
Cows should be dried: That is, stop milking, 45 to 60 days before the expected date of birth. This will allow rest of the mammary gland for the production of good quality colostrum and greater milk production in its lactation.
When the calf is born
- Make sure the calf is born in a clean, dry area.
The birth area is the first source of pathogens for the calf born without immunity. The maternity area, all equipment used for delivery assistance and the waiting area for newborn calves, should be kept dry, clean and disinfected. Remember that a newborn calf is too vulnerable to be able to fight an army of microbes.
- Disinfect the navel as soon as possible.
After birth by wetting it with a 7% iodine. The umbilical cord and the entire navel area in the stomach should be fully covered with iodine solution.
- Induce the calf to suck the colostrum.
In bottles or buckets, especially in the first 6 hours of life.
- Colostrum supply.
Colostrum is the secretion of the mammary gland at the beginning of lactation and lasts 3 to 6 days. Early ingestion of colostrum is essential for the newborn calf.
The maternal antibodies are transferred to the calf through the colostrum. The calf should receive at least two liters of colostrum within the first 2 hours of life. The antibody content in colostrum is highest at the first milking and then decreasing. The calf should consume colostrum equivalent from 8 to 10% of its live weight, in several doses, especially in the first 12 hours of life and during the duration of the colostrum period.
- Do not allow excess colostrum to remain for long periods of time without refrigeration.
Leftover colostrum that has not been refrigerated can have many bacteria and can be contaminated by flies if uncovered.
- Do not mix colostrum from different cows.
If the colostrum of a cow has any pathogen, this pathogen can pass to several calves fed with the mixture, causing an epidemic.
- Do not feed newborn calves with hospital milk.
- Put newborn calves in individual homes up to one week after weaning.
- Reduce Calf Stress.
A stressed calf will absorb fewer antibodies (it will have less immunity) and will have a greater risk of getting sick. The most common factors that cause calf stress are heat and/or moisture stress, excessive cold, cold air currents, wet beds, dirty environment, overpopulation, inconsistent feeding times, varying amounts of feed and many flies.
- Use enough product for the beds.
It is very important to keep the calf dry. Each new calf should be accommodated in a new bed and straw should be added frequently to keep the bed dry. In wet beds, ammonia is released from the urine. Reducing ammonia levels is important to prevent respiratory disease.
- Identify the calf.
With tattoos, caravans or another mechanism on the day of its birth.
- Dehorning and removal of supernumerary nipples are activities to be undertaken within the month.