CALF MANAGEMENT

Good calf management ?is a profitable venture if done properly. If it’s to be used for breeding and fattening programme, the facts highlighted below will be helpful.

Calf feeding takes place in 4 phases:
1. Colostrum phase (3 – 4 days)
2. Pre-ruminant phase (3 days to 20 – 30 days)
3. Transition stage (Liquids & dry feeds)
4. Post-weaning stage (dry feeds)
Programme
1. Colostrum Ingestion-the calf must ingest colostrum within 4 hours of birth. Colostrum must be provided at this time. At this young
age it is best to feed fluids to the calf using a bottle and teat. If it is? difficult to get a calf to drink, it might be necessary to use a stomach tube to feed it. As the calf gets older, it is possible to train it to drink from a bucket.However, allowing a calf to suckle i.e. continuing to use a teat (linked to a bottle, bucket or tube), stimulates the oesophageal tube to close, directing the milk past the rumen directly to the true stomach, allowing better digestion of the milk.

Note: Bucket-fed calves have distended stomachs because of poorly digested milk which accumulates in the rumen. ?

2. Initial feeding period- it last from day 3 to day 21 and the milk diet is fed at a rate of 8% to 10% of the calf’s body mass. A milk substitute or colostrum can be used instead of milk and it’s advisable to feed the calf twice a day, giving half its ration in the morning, the remainder in the evening. The milk must be given to the calf at body temperature (37ºC). If a calf is accustomed to drinking colder milk, as long as it is fed at the same temperature at all times and is not too cold, there’s no problem.

3. Calf starter meal- (17 to 18% crude protein, urea free) from the first day ad lib, stimulates the calf to lick the meal and if it ingests
some, stimulates intake. Intake of meal can be encouraged by placing a ?small amount of meal in the calf’s mouth every day at feeding time. The amount of meal the calf is taking in each day must be measured. The intake of concentrates usually increases rapidly after the calf is 7 days old.
Complete calf meal can be used instead of calf starter meal. The calf
starter meal should be fed for the first 6 to 8 weeks of age, after which a complete calf meal (urea free) is fed. Complete calf meal is usually
about 14% crude protein.
Meal containing Romensin (monensin) or Taurotec (lasalocid) is better because these ionophores suppress coccidial growth and are growth enhancers.
4. Fresh Water-? clean and fresh water must be continuously available to the calf, although calves usually only ingest significant amounts of water after 10 days of age. It is best to replace with fresh water twice daily.
5. Growth stimulant- this can be used if rapid growth is desired.
Once the calf is eating more than 0.75 kg of calf meal per day, milk can be removed from the diet i.e. the calf is weaned. Weaning is usually associated with a mass loss, which can be minimized by reducing the milk ration over a period of 7 to 10 days, ending with a period of feeding half the milk ration once a day only, preferably in the evening. Calves are usually ready to wean when they are 30 to 40 days old. A calf that is not consuming more than the required 0.75 kg meal, calves can be grouped and grazed in paddocks with good quality grass.
7. Feeding Complete Calf Meal- it must be fed ad lib until the calf is 210 days (7 months) old will ensure rapid growth is maintained. Damp or wet concentrates must not be fed to livestock because it becomes sour and moisture encourages fungal growth, both of which will have adverse effects on feed intake and on animal health.
8. Good Quality Hay and Roughage- it must be available to the calves at all times, it is essential in their feeding regime and it aids fast growth.
9. Standard Feedlotting Regime –this can be introduced when it is 7 to 8 months old. Calves fed in this manner are usually ready for slaughter at 12 to 15 months.
10. Vaccination programmes- it should be started as from three months of age because the antibodies ingested with the colostrum can interfere with the development of immunity during this period. Vaccination programme must include anthrax and quarter evil (2 shots 6 weeks
apart) and preferably also botulism (2 shots 6 weeks apart), lumpy skin
disease and three-day-stiff sickness. Heifers must be inoculated for contagious abortion at 6 to 8 months of age.
11. De-worming- it is very important and depends on conditions and management, but should include a remedy for tapeworms (one treatment at about 40 days old is usually adequate) as well as a broad spectrum remedy (at least one treatment, preferably two) before 7 months of age.
12. Ectoparasite Management- tick-borne diseases is difficult where calves are artificially reared and if the calf remains in pens at all times, the chances are that ticks should pose no threat.
If a calf is exposed to ticks, it can contract a tick borne disease and
can suffer abscess formation from tick bites, so extra care is warranted. Should dipping become necessary where tick infestations become a problem, the correct dip must be used to ensure that the ticks are susceptible to the dip in use.
13. Good Hygiene and Reducing Stress- this will increase the chances of a calf growing at a high rate of weight gain and will reduce the danger of disease.
The use of Vitamin A should be considered carefully. If milk is fed, Vitamin A is usually not supplemented.Where animals have access to dry feeds only for any length of time, especially if no green feed is ingested, Vitamin A
supplementation is essential.?

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