The first step to optimize calf health is the administration of a high amount of good quality colostrum from the cow within the first 24 hours after birth. Within this colostrum, antibodies are present from the cow, with which the calves have the possibility to defend themselves against diseases on the farm in the first weeks of life. This is is called passive immunity and is needed because the calf’s immune system is not fully developed at birth. These antibodies can pass freely from the gut into the blood vessel through gaps, which are closing in the first 24 hours after birth, therefore it is needed to give the calf colostrum;
As soon as possible
As much as possible
As often as possible
Recommended is to give the calf at least 2L of colostrum within 2 hours after birth and 4-6L in the first 8-12 hours after birth.
The first weeks of life of the calves are essential for their further development, therefore a lot of attention has to be paid to the calves in this week. It is recommended to feed the calves according to the feeding schedule and with the right concentration. Besides that, it is recommended to keep an eye on the calf's health, and regularly check the calves dung.
Besides milk or milk replacer calves need to be fed concentrate and roughage, to start rumen development. It is advised to give concentrate from day 7 onwards, in small amounts and no more than is consumed. Change feed regularly to keep the concentrate fresh. Besides concentrate feeding calves should have ad libitum access to fresh hay and drinking water.
Gradually decrease the amount of CMR given before weaning (in different steps), in order to ease the transition from milk to solid feed. Furthermore, it is advised to wean the calf not earlier than that it consumes 1.0-1.5 kg of concentrate a day.