DCHA Tip of the Week: Healthy start - Heifer development

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The growth rate for Holstein calves should be monitored as early as 24 hours after birth.  According to DCHA Gold Standards I, all newborn calves should be placed in an environment that is safe from adult animals and adult animal diseases. Every newborn calf should also receive care to its navel to control infection.  

The period from calving to three months of age is the most critical time for heifer growth and development. Ensuring heifers reach breeding condition on time and in good health begins with getting them off to a fast start. Pay close attention to these suggested management areas to help heifers reach their full potential and deliver highest profitability.

Environment - It is of utmost importance that calves have a clean, dry environment. Young calves have developing immune systems and are vulnerable to many viral and bacterial pathogens. Frequently changing calf bedding aids in maintaining a clean environment and reduces moisture from urine and feces. Calves also need access to clean, fresh air, so having well-ventilated housing is essential.

Nutrition - Calves need adequate nutrition for health and growth, including a sufficient supply of high-quality colostrum and milk. Access to fresh, clean water is also needed at all times. DCHA Gold Standards recommends working with a nutritionist to help formulate and monitor rations. Likewise, it is important to keep the herd veterinarian informed of rations.

Vaccination - Work with a veterinarian and customers to develop a vaccination protocol appropriate to the disease challenges of your region and operation. Protection from major respiratory, reproductive and clostridial diseases is needed from two to four weeks of age.

Movement & Grouping - Calves should be grouped according to their nutritional and management needs. Placing three to four animals in a group for one month post-weaning allows calves to gradually adjust to group living.

For more information, read the DCHA Gold Standards and Healthy Heifer Management Tips.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association



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