Last month, we discussed what abilities, or innate talents, are needed in a group-housed calving system manager. This month, we cover the skills needed.

A skill is the conversion of a person’s abilities into something of value, like learning to give an injection or treat pneumonia. Once you have an able candidate for the calf feeder position, look for the following skills (or ensure that the proper training is done for the person to develop these skills): 


1. Calf care skills: This person needs to learn how to properly restrain a calf using corners of a pen or gates when a calf need to be either treated, vaccinated or fed.

2. Overall neonatal calf care: Some of the important things that this person must know or learn include how to dip or spray navels correctly, identify calf gender, use calf identification tags (ear tags and ID buttons), vaccinate properly, give injections, manage and feed colostrum, use an esophageal tube feeder, perform neonatal calf physical examinations and evaluate navel condition after 24 hours of a calf’s life. 

3. Colostrum management skills: He/she will have to determine colostrum quality, preserve colostrum following protocols, use colostrum supplements and replacers when required and assure cleanliness and disinfection during the entire colostrum management process.

4. Calf health diagnosis and treatment: This person will have to learn or know how to perform a physical examination and how to properly diagnose calf health problems (focusing primarily on respiratory problems, scours and navel infections). Also, he/she will need to understand and treat calves following treatment protocols and properly handle and administer vaccines. In addition, keeping good calf health and vaccination records are a critical part of the skills required.

5. Feeding skills: This person must understand very well the importance of milk, water and grain to any calf. Following at all times the proper feeding protocols is critical. Also, proper computer feeder management when available is important, as are understanding computer reports, being able to monitor eating patterns and identifying calves with problems before they get sick.

6. De-horning: Follow protocols at all times and use the necessary tools to minimize calf stress during and after the process.

7. Calf records: Update calves’ records at least once daily and follow protocols at all times. Learn or know how to monitor and evaluate information and be able to develop action plans according to reports.

8. Cleanliness: Learn and follow cleaning and disinfecting protocols at all times. Be consistent and aware of the importance of this. 

9. Proper calf weaning protocols: Be able to identify calves that are ready to be weaned and follow weaning protocols at all times. Also, be able to identify problem or weak calves before weaning. 

10. Good communication skills: Good communication with managers and other co-workers is critical to the success of any calf program. Monitoring and record keeping systems will help improve communication and developing a daily, weekly and monthly communication system is important.

Before hiring your calf manager for your new group-housed calf system, assess the type of abilities and skills that your calf manager will need in order to succeed at the job. And then be ready to put applicants to the test using various testing stations where they can show you what they are really capable of observing and doing. 

As a manager, you won’t be able to do much about a person’s abilities to do a job. This is why the hiring process is so important, to ensure that the candidate with the right abilities is selected. The more prepared you are as a manager by clearly understanding the job, and having a written job description and protocols, the better chances you will have of hiring the right candidate for the job. 

In summary, assess the person’s abilities for the job and also determine whether he/she has the right skills. But remember, as long as the candidate has the right abilities for the job, then with good training and coaching you can help the person develop the right skills.

Felix Soriano is a labor management/human resource consultant with APN Consulting LLC, Warrington, Pa. Contact him via phone: 215-738-9130, email: or visit