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Five steps to better calf health

If you are concerned about calf health, you can now ask your vet for the MSD Animal Health checklist tool which provides a detailed, score-based appraisal of your youngstock rearing system.

The comprehensive and interactive checklist – developed in conjunction with vets and nutritionists experienced in investigating youngstock management problems – will help you draw up a workable action plan to improve calf health.

This new checklist-based tool explores, records and scores calf health performance across five core areas to identify the strengths and weaknesses of any rearing unit’s environment and processes.

Image of the graphic for Five steps to better calf health checklist

Working through a series of 10 questions within each core area – designed to determine where a rearing unit is in terms of accepted best management practice – allows vet and farmer to quickly pinpoint any areas needing attention.

Repeating the checklist every six or 12 months is a great way to keep things on track, allowing both parties to monitor progress against agreed targets.

1. SET GOALS AND MEASURE

Work with your vet to set targets:

  • Measure progress towards your goals
  • Review your goals every 6-12 months
Owen Atkinson (left) Dairy Vet, Dairy Veterinary Consultancy
Owen Atkinson (left) Dairy Vet, Dairy Veterinary Consultancy

2. GOOD COLOSTRUM

  • Good colostrum is crucial for protecting calves against disease
  • Follow the 5Qs: Quantity, Quality, Quickly, sQueaky Clean and Quantify
  • Give a first feed of four litres or 10% of bodyweight within four hours of birth; this should then be followed up by a further two litres within 12 hours of birth

3. GOOD NUTRITION

  • Ask your nutritionist to set up a calf feeding plan to achieve target growth rates
  • Water should always be available alongside the normal milk feed
  • Make sure you feed enough for the growth rate you want

4. LOW INFECTION PRESSURE

  • Talk to your vet about vaccination to minimise the impact of calf diseases
  • Vaccinate with the right product, at the right time, to the right animals and in the right place. Always use the right equipment

5. HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

  • Group calves according to age with no more than 6-8 sharing a pen
  • Ensure bedding is clean, dry and plentiful
  • Ensure calf buildings are well ventilated