Keeping younger stock in good condition is critical for productive calves
Keeping calves healthy is a cornerstone of farm management practices.
Calves have their own set of needs when it comes to managing their health, and while producers should always inquire with their veterinarian about the best practices for their farm, there are a few common things that can be implemented with the majority of calf crops.
Set Them Up for Success
Calves stand a much better chance of having a productive career they are born into an environment that sets them up for success.
Calves might not have access to a weather-tight barn filled with fluffy cedar shavings, but they do benefit from windbreaks and shelters.
The Noble Research Institute advises producers to plan to calve in the driest, most protected area possible to reduce stress on both the dam and her newborn. Calves can stand a lot of cold if they are dry and out of the wind.
Calves need to be kept as dry as possible. Mud-free areas to rest in outdoors and clean bedding, if indoors, creates a healthy environment.
Adequate space where calves are not at risk from being stepped on by adult cattle or too crowded with other calves will keep stress levels low. Evaluating the area where calves will be born and reared to identify improvements prior to calving can go a long way towards comfortable, healthy youngsters.
Illness and Disease Prevention
Scours is a common problem for many cow/calf producers and can be costly – fortunately, there are preventative strategies.
“Calf scours is almost entirely a man-made problem brought on by having the herd closely confined at calving time. Developing a rotation to allow manure to dry down and kill bacteria is a good starting place,” Andy McCorkill, livestock field specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, advised. He recommended the “Sandhill’s Shuffle method” to help with overcrowding and scours prevention.
“If you continually have scours issues, it might take the addition of a scours vaccination program to aide in getting some colostral immunity passed on to the newborn calf to keep it healthy,” he said.
Other vaccinations producers might consider (always consult with a veterinarian for the most effective protocols) are blackleg and viral respiratory vaccines. Deworming is also strongly recommended beginning around 4 to 8 weeks of age. For deworming to be the most effective, consider pairing this protocol with a rotation of some kind to reduce the amount of parasites calves are exposed to.
Keep Dams Healthy
Dams in good condition will raise healthier calves. Keeping cows well fed prior to and after calving, giving pre-calving vaccinations to transfer immunity via colostrum and administering both internal and external parasite preventatives on a regular schedule will go a long way towards calf health and herd health in general.