In my last blog we discussed how to choose the correct beef calf for your system. Today we will have a look at some hints and tips for bringing those calves home.
Firstly, before the calves arrive on farm, it is important to have a strict bio security regime in place.
These young animals will be stressed from the travel and change of environment, good bio security practices in place prevent the introduction and spread of disease within your holding.
Ensure pens for new arrivals have been prepared in advance, pens should be well bedded – allowing the calves to nest and keep warm.
well ventilated but free from drafts. Quality bedding is crucial to reduce the amount of heat lost from lying calves.
Top tip: Calves will lie along the side of pens – if these are concrete walls it is worth covering them with stock board to stop the calves getting a chill, alternatively some small straw bales propped up against the concrete walls work well as something for the calves to nestle up to.
Calves do not respond well to stress, when calves arrive on farm, unload them quietly, move them into clean pens that are well bedded, administer 2L of electrolyte per calf and allow them to rest. New arrivals should be quarantined for seven days.
Top Tip: batch these calves according to source, size and age. Do not commence milk feeding for at least 2 hours after calves have arrived on farm.
Research has shown the first 90 days are the most efficient time for calf growth – we want to maximise this potential and minimise stress and setbacks. Offer the new arrivals an electrolyte drink in two litres of warm water and ensure fresh drinking water is always available. Do not put the calves through any procedures in these first few days on farm, allow them time to settle then think about an ideal time to castrate and disbud if necessary.
Before the calves arrive on farm, work closely with your vet to develop an appropriate vaccination and disease control programme.
Fail to prepare…
Now is a good time to draw up some plans for managing the calves; everyday routines, weekly and monthly jobs.
Daily: Milk feeding, Water changing/checking, Solid feeding, bed down, Cleaning & disinfecting feeding equipment (if using automatic feeders – changing teats)
Tip: Handle and feed sick calves last – this will avoid indirect disease and bacteria transfer.
Weekly: weighing calves, Cleaning and disinfecting pens.
Tip: If you are using an automated feeder, remember to schedule in regular recalibration, cleaning and maintenance, ideally calibrate the machine with every new pallet of milk powder.