Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : July 2011 Contents The Dairyman JULY 2011 73
Best to be prepared for anything
Calves are your future herd and income, so why wouldn't you put maximum effort into
rearing healthy, happy calves? When the stress of calving comes upon a farming family,
it is wise to be prepared for any eventuality.
• It's best practice to ensure calves
are sheltered for at least three weeks.
• Exposure to wind and rain can kill
young calves, and it is a significant
cause of poor performance. It also
means feeding requirements increase
significantly -- which is a cost to you.
• An ideal shed will be twice as deep
as it is wide. The shed should be dry
• Consideration should also be given
to which way the opening of the calf-
shed faces -- ideally this should be north
facing and definitely not south facing.
• Don't pack calves in too tightly --
no more than 20 calves per pen, with a
minimum of 1.5sqm per calf, and no
more than 100 calves per shed.
• Make sure the shed does not con-
tain any treated timber or old lead paint,
as calves are prone to sucking on the
• Good drainage, effluent removal
and ventilation are essential. If there is
an ammonia smell in the shed, the ven-
tilation is not adequate. There should be
no water on the ground in pens.
• Good hygiene is vital for keeping calves healthy. You need to be diligent about ensuring
their environment is clean.
• Before and after calves are transported, spray their cords with iodine.
• Before calves enter the shed, sterilise the shed, bedding and any equipment with a viru-
cidal disinfectant. Once calves are in, disinfect twice a week.
• The bedding, which can be straw, shavings or bark, must be clean and dry, and not dusty.
Make sure there are no treated timber shavings in their bedding that they might eat. It's rec-
ommended that the bedding be at least 300mm deep, so keep adding to it if the levels drop.
• Keep the shed completely free of rodents or birds -- they can spread disease.
• Drinking water should be clean. Muddy water pooling on the ground can be a breeding
ground for the causes of infectious scours, so it's vital to ensure good drainage.
• The Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle)
Code of Welfare 2010 states: To ensure their
welfare, newborn calves must receive suffi-
cient colostrum or a good quality commer-
cial colostrum substitute (Minimum
Standard No. 2: Feeding Newborn Calves).
• It is vital that newborn calves receive
high quality colostrum within the first few
hours of life. Calves that do not receive
enough colostrum are much less likely to
reach their potential. They will also have
significantly less resistance to disease.
• Calves need colostrum equivalent to 10-
15 per cent if their body weight within the
first six hours of life, and again within the
• Undiluted colostrum from the first two
milkings will provide the highest levels of
nutrition and immunity through antibodies.
• Colostrum from cows vaccinated
against infectious scours will boost the pro-
tective antibodies levels even further.
• To provide further protection during the
period calves are most at risk, dairy calves
need two-three litres of stored colostrum
every day as part of their diet for a mini-
mum of three weeks.
Scours can happen to good farmers using
best practice methods. Severe outbreaks can
kill over a third of infected calves. And
those that survive can struggle to reach tar-
get liveweights -- so the financial impact of
one outbreak can be felt for years.
There are two kinds of scours -- nutrition-
al scours and infectious scours.
Nutritional scours can be caused by fac-
tors including feeding cold milk, changes in
diet, and environmental stresses.
Infectious scours is the biggest threat to
calves -- it spreads very fast, especially in
the more intensive rearing environments,
and is often fatal.
To help prevent the spread of scours,
avoid mixing calves once they've entered
the barn, and keep the same group in one
pen for at least the first three weeks in an
"all-in, all-out" policy. Look out for signs of
ill health -- sunken and teary eyes, droopy
ears and posture, and a decrease in urina-
tion. One of the best ways to minimise the
risks of your calves being hit by infectious
scours is to vaccinate.
A single shot of Rotavec Corona provides
the protection needed to help prevent infec-
tious scours. You can maximise herd cover-
age by vaccinating the whole herd at three
weeks prior to planned start of calving.
-- Intervet Schering-Plough Animal
Health and Dairy Women's Network
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