January 6, 2013

Off to a good start


Dr. Leadley stressed that since the cow has not been milking in some time, teat ends usually need extra attention to avoid contamination during the first milking. Once obtained, extra colostrum needs to be cooled rapidly and can be frozen for future use in cases where good colostrum is not available. One useful tip given was to freeze colostrum in large zip style freezer bags, but only one quart at a time to speed thawing time.

Once calves have made the transition to regular milk or milk replacer, calves should be moved to clean, dry, draft-free housing with good air quality and enough room so the calf can turn around. Tying calves up in the manger of a steamy, damp, poorly ventilated cow barn is just asking for trouble in the form of scours and pneumonia.

Preventing pneumonia at an early age will protect the calf from lung damage that can haunt them into adulthood by reducing growth rates and age at first breeding as well as future milk production. Another tip from Dr. Leadley was the importance of follow through when treating pneumonia or scours. Treatment should be administered as recommended for the full regimen to avoid reoccurrence of the disease and the possibility of mortality or resistance to future treatment.

Once off to a good start, calves should be fed a high-quality diet designed to keep them growing, healthy and happy. Being creatures of habit, calves do best with consistent care and familiar faces. Keep this in mind during the cold winter season and try limiting calf care to a small group of staff.

While most calves have traditionally been individually raised in hutches or pens, there has been an increased interest in calf group housing, automatic feeders, accelerated feeding and calf management in general. For farmers who were unable to attend the recent Pro-Dairy Group Housed Calf Systems Symposium in Syracuse, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s regional dairy specialist, Kim Morrill, will be holding an on-farm Calf Management Discussion on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Rusty Creek Farm in Chazy.

Registration is not required, but if you would like directions and more information, contact Peter Hagar, CCE ag educator at 561-7450 or email

Peter Hagar is an agricultural educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County

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