This Tip of the Week has been brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association.  

Developing a well-structured nutrition program is an essential component for helping calves fight diseases. Providing calves with much needed resources will aid in meeting maintenance requirements, fighting diseases and promoting healthy growth.

The DCHA Gold Standards recommend structuring your nutrition program to achieve health and growth standards as well as monitoring calf performance on a regular basis. You should also consult your veterinarian and nutritionist routinely.

A healthy nutritional program for calves should include:

  • Providing clean water and starter grain to calves with continuous availability by three days of age. The water supply should be refreshed and replenished daily. 
    • Keep in mind that adequate water consumption is important as it increases intake of dry grain and forage, which also promotes rumen development.
  • Feed not eaten by one calf should not be offered to another. This will prevent diseases and illnesses from spreading.
  • Provide a high-quality, high-protein feeding program to help calves reach their full potential. According to the DCHA Gold Standards II, the total ration protein content should be:
    • 6 to 9 months of age: 15-16%
    • 9 to 13 months of age: 14-15%
    • 13 months of age to freshening: 13.5-14%
  • Calves should be eating at least 1.5 pounds of calf starter per day before they are weaned.

Paying attention to rumen development is another important aspect. Adequate feed intake is likely to increase rumen development. Calves are able to function as fully developed ruminants after four to six months of age.