Optimum calf rearing for replacements
By Samantha Kietzman – Technical Lead NI, AHV NZ
Rearing a calf optimally provides both job satisfaction and gives the calf the best developmental start to become a healthy and strong dairy cow. Many calves face digestive or respiratory challenges. This is not only an extra cost, but also causes frustration and loss of production once they enter the milking herd.
The immune system
Calves are not born with a fully developed immune system. In the first days of the calf’s life, the immune system is still in a passive phase, whereby its own immune system is not fully functional. This system gradually develops into an active system through the calf’s exposure to health challenges. During the transition from passive to active, between 2-4 weeks an immunity gap exists. It is essential to support the immune system during this time to prevent health challenges.
Between 2-3 months, weaning also poses a challenge to the immune system. Conditions where discomfort and challenges can be expected influence the immune system even more, and respiratory challenges then lie in wait. Challenges can be expected due to moving, dehorning, changes in feed/diet and lower quality feed These should be avoided during immune challenges. Other things that can play a negative role are poor hygiene, overcrowding in pens and non-optimal colostrum quality, amount, and timing.
Bridging the immunity gap
The above-mentioned immune challenges come at the cost to calf growth which can be difficult to make up. AHV NZ Technical Lead NI, Samantha Kietzman explains, “Immediately after birth, quality colostrum must be provided; the calf’s intestine is permeable to the antibodies contained in the colostrum for a limited time. The rule for colostrum is the 3Q’s: quality, quantity and quick: 4 litres of high-quality colostrum (IgG >50 or Brix >22) within 6 hours after birth. From day 0, we recommend supporting the calf with AHV OptiStart added to the (colostrum) milk. This will promote growth and digestion, allowing the calf to bridge the immunity gap.”
In case calves start to have digestive challenges, AHV Reco Paste can come to the rescue at the first signs of digestive challenges to support these calves’ recovery. Adding AHV Aspi Liquid to ease discomfort and AHV Booster Powder to support the growing calf with more energy to overcome digestive challenges.
When calves are to be weaned, it is important that they consume 1.5 kg of concentrates for three consecutive days before weaning to ensure they take in enough energy. Despite sufficient intake, weaning can still be challenging. Weaning often goes hand in hand with moving and disbudding which adds additional discomfort. Limiting discomfort and challenging situations as much as possible improves the feed intake and energy balance of the calf. An optimum energy balance also ensures that the immune system functions properly. AHV Booster Powder provides an energy boost which supports the health of the calf during the weaning period and development of the rumen for digesting fibre.
Housing and draughts
Like people, animals are sensitive to draughts. In calf sheds, the climate may seem good, but the signals are sometimes subtle. Samantha says, “You may not notice a draughty pen at first, but you can usually see calves looking for a sheltered spot or huddling together. Using a curtain on the open side of calf sheds to provide additional shelter is a great option to give young calves a warm spot out of the elements while allowing for ventilation when the weather is milder.” Ensuring calves have warm, dry bedding that is regularly topped up also plays an important role in early health and well-being.
Despite diligent care and housing, calves can still encounter respiratory challenges. AHV Respi and AHV Aspi are products for healthy airways that regulate the body’s response and bring relief and comfort. In case of extreme challenges, it is wise to give an AHV Calf Bolus. This has a soothing effect on the airways, promotes good intestinal flora and stimulates intestinal function.
Building up natural resistance
The AHV Calf Rearing Protocol supports replacements in all facets of optimal rearing and building up their natural immunity. This results in productive cows, a longer life span, higher milk production yield, fewer financial losses, improved welfare for young livestock and greater ease for the dairy farmer.
Would you like to know more about this topic and how AHV can support you and your herd? Please fill in the form below or contact your local Territory Manager directly. email@example.com; 0800 4 248 69.
These products are mentioned:
AHV Reco Paste
AHV Aspi Liquid
AHV Booster Powder
AHV Calf Bolus
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Would you like to be visited by an advisor to discuss the health challenges on your farm together? Our AHV Specialist will be happy to visit you to jointly assess the health of your cows and come up with appropriate cow-specific advice.
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