Dairy Calf

Dairy calf Management

In today’s dairy industry, calves are raised under a wide variety of environmental conditions. These conditions range from calves being raised outside under a wide range of weather and temperature conditions, to moderate confinement with open-sided exposure, to calves raised in total confinement.

Calf numbers on any premise may vary from a few head to hundreds or thousands. Regardless of the environmental conditions or number of calves, there are some calf management practices you should consider to minimize losses and produce healthy calves at weaning time.


Delivering fresh, clean air for young calves to breathe is important for both health and welfare. It can also be a challenge, depending on housing situations.

Mechanical ventilation options can include:

  1. 1. Circulation fans that simply move the existing air within a structure
  2. 2. Large fans that draw air from the outside and move it across the calves in either a tunnel- or cross-ventilation method (negative-pressure system)
  3. 3. Positive-pressure tube ventilation (PPTV) that applies fresh air to calves continuously without a draft

Feeding adequate amounts of a high quality liquid diet

Pre-weaned calves should receive at least  900ml of solids from milk or a high quality milk replacer. This amounts to at least 7 quarts per day.

More liberally fed calves won’t consume much starter grain for the first 2-3 weeks of life, but should be eating 1-1.5kg per day at weaning around 6 to 8 weeks of age.

Limit feeding calves milk, milk replacer, or feeding a poor quality milk replacer may save money per calf per day. However, the calf uses more nutrients for maintenance functions with less available to support gain.

Calf growth per pound of body weight can get very expensive in these situations.

In addition, poor nutrition may result in greater health problems, particularly from respiratory disease as less nutrients are available to support immune function.

Labour efficient housing

The priority here is to keep calves dry. If their hair coats are wet, calves lose body heat more quickly which increases maintenance requirements, and decreases weight gain and nutrient efficiency of the gain.

Feeding milk fed calves is time consuming. Calf housing systems such as hutches are popular, but frequently are less labour efficient. The investment in properly engineered calf housing systems can promote good growth and a high degree of labour efficiency.

Challenges (Growth/ Digestive Challenges)

Feeding and managing the pre-weaned calf is Challenging. However, the length of this segment in heifer management is short and the potential long term impacts on health, growth and long term profitability are high!

Major Challenges are:-

Immune Challenge 

Digestive Challenge

Immunity development

Active Immunity need:

Hygienic environment (dry)

Active Immunity need:

correct balanced feed

Protection against mycotoxins

Digestive Challenges 


For more information on Calf Management feel free to contact PDS Nutritionist.

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