Editor's note: This Tip of the Week has been brought to you by the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA).

Reduce your risk when commingling calvesDairy calf growers often raise calves from a variety of sources, including trusted dairy partners. This unique relationship can result in less direct control over the early lives of those calves. However, there are ways to reduce those risks and increase the probability of healthy, productive replacement heifers or dairy-beef calves.

Sam Leadley, Ph.D., P.A.S., calf/heifer management specialist at Attica Veterinary Associates in Attica, N.Y., and editor ofCalving Ease, a monthly newsletter for calf raisers, offers the following tips for commingling calves:

Immunity

  • Ensure calves have a strong immunity coming in by making sure the source farm:
    • Vaccinates dams with organisms against diarrheal diseases
    • Milks cows within one hour after calving to get 100 percent antigen quality colostrum
    • Delivers four quarts of quality colostrum immediately after birth
  • You may test (between 36 and 72 hours) the calves' blood serum total protein to determine if they are receiving adequate antibodies.
  • Some calf raisers assess a penalty fee for calves coming in with low values.

Hygiene

  • Cows are efficient generators of pathogens, so be sure calves are removed from their mothers immediately.
  • Request results from colostrum bacteria level tests. Coliform levels should be no more than 10,000 colony forming units (cfu)/ml.
  • Inspect trucks and trailers for cleanliness when calves are delivered.

Housing

  • Provide clean housing with clean, fresh bedding when calves arrive.
  • Housing should be dry and draft-free to minimize heat loss.
  • Provide adequate ventilation -- four air changes per hour.

Handling

  • Strive for good stockmanship when calves arrive.
  • Handle animals gently.
  • Move quietly and slowly to reduce stress in young animals.

Nutrition

  • Calves should double their body weight in the first 60 days, requiring 1.5 pounds of gain per day.
  • Feed calves with growth standards in mind.