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In an effort to develop a unified set of standards and benchmark for calf raising, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) has established the Gold Performance Standards for raising Holstein calves.

DCHA consulted with a working group to develop these Gold Standards. The working group included: dairies raising their own replacements, contract growers, veterinarians, calf-care specialists, industry representatives, calf researchers, DCHA members and non-members. The working group also represented a geographic mix of the United States.

Standards are for calves from birth to six months of age.

“We will continue to update and refine the standards as new technologies and new processes become available,” says Lewis Anderson, president of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association. He also noted that they hope to establish standards for a broader age group in the future.

Here are the standards for mortality, morbidity, growth rate, colostrum management, nutrition and housing.

Mortality

A. Given that some calves are born with a heartbeat and breathing, yet die not long after birth, the age of 24 hours shall be used to distinguish between “dead-on-arrival” (stillbirth) and “calf mortality.”

B. All newborn calves should be placed in an environment that will be safe from adult animals and adult animal diseases.

C. Every newborn calf should receive care to its navel to control infection.

D. Target mortality rates are:

  1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 5percent
  2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2percent
  3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 1percent

II. Morbidity

A. Defining scours as a case of diarrhea which requires any intervention for more than 24 hours, target morbidity rates are:

  1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 25percent
  2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 2percent
  3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 1percent

B. Defining pneumonia as a case of respiratory disease which requires individual animal treatment with an antibiotic (does not include use of feed-grade medication fed with regular ration), target morbidity rates are:

  1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: < 10percent
  2. 61 to 120 days of age: < 15percent
  3. 121 to 180 days of age: < 2percent

III. Growth Rate

A. Target growth rate standards for Holstein calves are:

  1. 24 hours to 60 days of age: Double birth weight
  2. 61 to 120 days of age: 2.2 lbs. average daily gain
  3. 121 to 180 days of age: 2.0 lbs. average daily gain

IV. Colostrum Management

A. First feeding

Colostrum equaling 10 percent of body weight should be fed in the first 4 hours of life. [For example, a 90 pound calf should receive 4 quarts of colostrum.]

B. Colostrum quality

  1. Colostrum should be free of blood, debris and mastitis
  2. Colostrum should be disease-free
  3. Test for quality with a colostrum tester or IgG test
  4. Target bacteria count (also known as standard plate count) is <100,000 CFU/mL</div />
  5. Target immunity level of animals at 2 to 7 days of age is: a. blood serum total protein of >5.2 g/dL for maternal-source-colostrum-fed calves; or b. serum IgG of >10.0 g/L

V. Nutrition

A. Structure your nutrition program to achieve health and growth standards defined in II and III, and monitor performance regularly. Consult your veterinarian and nutritionist routinely.

B. Clean water and starter grain should be offered to calves with continuous availability by 3 days of age, and refreshed or replenished daily.

VI. Housing

A. Target housing standards for calves 24 hours to 60 days of age:

  • Clean
  • Dry
  • Draft-free
  • Good air quality
  • Sized so calf can turn around

B. Target housing standards for calves 61 to 120 days of age:

  • Clean
  • Dry
  • Draft-free
  • Good air quality
  • Minimum of 34 square feet per animal of resting space
  • Adequate feeding space for all animals to eat at the same time

C. Target housing standards for calves 121 to 180 days of age:

  • Clean
  • Dry
  • Draft-free
  • Good air quality
  • Minimum of 40 square feet per animal of resting space in bedded-pack housing
  • If animals are in free stall housing, there should be one stall per animal
  • Adequate feeding space for all animals to eat at the same time

For more information, contact the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, info@calfandheifer.org or go to: www.calfandheifer.org

 



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