Nutrition and sanitation go hand in hand to ensure the well-being of the growing calf. Well-fed calves have a robust immune response to fight against the challenges that come with an immature immune system. Proper calf nutrition, therefore, cannot be underestimated. With proper feeding and nutrition results in less sickness, reduced antibiotic use, and better performance. The following steps will assist your calves in reaching their true growth potential.
Provide plenty of clean water
Providing enough water in a calf pen is essential for calves as they are born without a functioning rumen, which is developed by the fermentation of grain and water. The Calves offered free-choice water will take more calf starter and begin to grow at a faster rate. Weaned calves require ten to fifteen liters per day. However, this can increase up to twenty-five liters on hot and dry days.
Managing Weaning period
Make sure you feed your calf with the right calf milk replacer. By considering the age of the calf, you are feeding, calves less than four weeks of age may not digest the same amount of ingredients as older animals. It is recommended that when weaning a calf, make sure you gradually reduce the volume fed over seven to ten days. This will ensure increased concentrate intake and avoid a slump in growth rate after weaning. Try to target about 0.7-0.8kg weight gain. In cold weather, it is recommended to increase the level of milk by 1-2%
Proper Feed Colostrum
Farmers are advised to use the simple rule when it comes to feeding colostrum to the new-born calves. The 1, 2, 3 rule is simple to remember and has been proven to be effective. Using the 1, 2, 3 practice, Use the first milk from the cow; Feed the calf colostrum within the early two hours of birth. Calves must be given at least three liters of good quality colostrum. Correct colostrum management is essential as calves are born without adequate antibodies to fight off infection. New-born calves acquire huge of their immunity to pathogens and disease from the first 24 hours of feeding; hence colostrum management should be a key priority at the farm level.
Proper Monitoring of Dehydration
A sick calve can lose up to 10% of its body weight in a day and, in severe cases, may result in death. A precise and simple test for dehydration is through a skin tenting check. To confirm this, you are required to pinch the skin, after which the coat will flatten in less than two seconds to indicate regular hydration. However, If the skin takes two-to-six seconds to crush, then the calf is about 8% dehydrated. Anything more than six seconds will indicate severe dehydration of over 10%.
Maintain a high level of hygiene
Ensure you promptly separate Feed buckets from water buckets to prevent grain from being dribbled into the water and vice versa. Wash the feeding teats before allowing in the calves. Clean all equipment by using appropriate sanitizer. Ensure you calibrate automatic feeders regularly. For calves retained for breeding purposes, try as much as possible to avoid feeding waste milk to your calf. Still, instead, you can consider using calf milk replacer, this can pose the risk of transmitting disease and can cause the development of antibiotic resistance.