Calf Rearing: A Rundown of the Basics

3 nice brown calvesRaising a cattle is hard enough as it is, but when the time comes for a farm to test its livestock’s capacity to breed and to carry the business into a more self-sustaining state, workers need to know how to properly rear the new generation of animals.

Calves, in particular, are more demanding in all aspects of cultivation compared to their adult counterparts. Well-fed, well-housed and well- protected from diseases are the three key distinctions between strong, healthy calves and those that are less likely to survive. To accomplish all these, a caretaker must possess the knowledge, skill and compassion that will allow them to live up to their job title in the fullest capacity.

Here are some of the most important steps when it comes to rearing calves:

The first 24 hours are crucial.

One of the first lessons a worker learns in the discipline of calf rearing is how they need colostrum, or ‘first milk’. Newborn mammals — this includes humans — rely on that single dose of colostrum to help their severely immature immune systems withstand the outside world. Calves will have significantly higher chances of surviving upon receiving colostrum, so do not miss providing it to them at all costs.

Water before milk, and never the other way around

A dehydrated calf will have a much harder time processing milk, especially since three of their four stomachs have yet to develop. Calves need clean, fresh water at all times, as well as an electrolyte solution at least 24 hours before each milk feeding. This makes the often-fatal instances of enteritis or scouring much less likely to occur.

Implement bucket feeding with caution.

With calf feed options more numerous today than ever before, calf farmers need not concern themselves with the acquisition as much as they should the method of feeding itself. See, in calves, there is reflex in their oesophageal groove that needs to trigger to allow proper digestion. The reflex bypasses their three non-functioning stomachs, but it only triggers through teat feeding.

Bucket-fed calves are more likely to get food trapped inside their first stomach, leading to scouring, but there are also ways to work around this flaw. Many farmers have successfully trained their calves to safely feed from buckets.

Calf rearing can be demanding, but done right, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences a farmer can have.