Dairy School: Focusing on calf health reduces mortality

Dairy calves experience many challenges in early life, and producers need to be diligent in the hours and days after birth to ensure calf health and reduce mortality.

Overall, research shows that eight percent of calves die within 48 hours of birth — this includes those born dead or those that die within the first two days, notes University of Guelph veterinarian David Renaud. Another six percent of calves die in the pre-weaning period (the first 60 days).

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Dairy School, Renaud shares health management tips to help producers reduce the number of calves lost on Canadian farms.

Renaud says better calf health starts with better colostrum management. Feeding an adequate quantity of high-quality colostrum quickly after birth is essential for both male and female calves. Consistent and timely colostrum will ensure young calves can fight disease.

Colostrum also plays a role in managing umbilical infections. Maintaining a clean maternity pen area and housing calves on clean and dry bedding are also good preventative practices to minimize navel infections. Renaud notes that early life nutrition is essential for calf health and producers are encouraged to feed calves higher volumes of milk — 20 percent of the calf’s body weight as recommended by the Dairy Code of Practice.

Renaud also encourages dairy producers to better engage with their veterinarians on calf health. Too often the farm vet is under-utilized when it comes to calf management, he notes

Click here for more Dairy School episodes.

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