Bringing your beef calves home

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.

Nesting Score

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.


Eimear Diamond
Calf Specialist
You can follow Eimear on Twitter @diamondcalf1 or contact your local calf specialist here.

Beef Calf

Sourcing Beef Calves : Choosing The Calf

Increasing numbers of dairy x beef calves are opening up new avenues for beef farmers, but how do you decide what will best suit your system?

The margin between profit and loss with calves is very fine, sourcing the correct calf can have a huge impact on your bottom line.  Purchasing calves from one source is the best way to minimise disease risk, procuring calves from multiple units can lead to an increased risk of bringing disease on to your farm. However, with sensible buying and good biosecurity plans, the risk can be managed.

Colostrum intake is something which we have to consider, unfortunately this tends to be an area where we have less influence (unless you are buying from one source and have a relationship with the farmer) It’s good practice to have some idea if a calf has received adequate colostrum, especially as there is a proven link between colostrum intake, immune status of the calf, and subsequent performance.  Calves that have had inadequate colostrum intake at birth don’t perform as well as those that had the recommended 10% of birth weight.  Have a look at the calf checklist below for what to look out for.

Top tips

ZST Test: A simple blood test carried out in the first week of life that measures immunoglobulin levels – speak to your vet about the availability of this

Transport: Calves do not like stress! The shorter we can keep the length of transport the better for these young calves

Electrolytes: Once calves have arrived on the unit, it’s a good idea to administer 2L of electrolyte per calf

Calf weight: Calf weight is a great indicator of health and future performance – but only if we take the calf age into account. Being sold an 80kg calf sounds great – not so great if you realise it’s four months old!  Before you buy your calves, have an idea in your head of what weight you will be happy with bearing in mind their age.

Buying / sourcing calves checklist

Is the calf alert?

Does the calf have clear eyes?

A dry navel

Ensure there is no swelling of joints

No signs of scour or pneumonia

Bright and shiny coat

Weight to age correlation is correct

keep good records of calf returns and disease – this should enable easier future sourcing


Remember………….a healthy calf is a profitable one!  

Eimear Diamond
Calf Specialist
You can follow Eimear on Twitter @Diamondcalf1 or find out how to contact her directly by clicking here.

Wynnstay Reviva 80/20

Restoring calcium and energy balance post calving

With the autumn/winter calving season upon us, it is important to consider ways to keep cows healthy at this crucial time. There are many challenges during the transition period but the biggest challenges can be the result of the metabolic changes that occur around calving and as the cow transitions into lactation. The main challenges are; trying to maintain hydration when water intake is reduced; mobilising calcium for colostrum and milk production; maintaining energy intake when dry matter intake is reduced.

Baby calves in a barn

Later is better when it comes to weaning.

Calf weaning is always a topic of much discussion and debate; it is difficult to filter through advice and figure out what is best for your farm. I have sat around many farm kitchen tables and had the same discussion. As a calf specialist, I would always recommend weaning later, and using a step down weaning method but don’t just take my word for it, let’s have a look at some of the research.

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