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CALVES & HEIFERS

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, sound milk replacer or pasteurized waste milk along with proper bedding and ventilation.

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Many producers report problems rearing calves without disease. First off, it is important to understand that they are living beings and, as such, some will get sick. Second, these are babies, so they are more susceptible to disease than adults.

Having said that, we all strive to raise them as healthy as possible. Here are a couple “secrets” to grow healthy calves: Give them a great start with colostrum, then feed them enough to grow and develop their immune system. It is actually as simple as that.

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Replacement heifers are the future of the dairy herd, but very little research is focused on these animals.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Dairy Education and Research Centre have recently completed three experiments designed to determine the effects of different methods of feeding weaned 5-month-old to 8-month-old Holstein heifers.

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Although easy to remember, the 4-4-4 rule in colostrum management is often difficult to put into practice. This rule states that the cow should be milked the first four hours after calving and that the calf should be provided with 4 quarts of high-antibody colostrum within four hours after birth.

Scientific explanations backing up that rule are quite simple:

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Intensified feeding of calves for accelerated growth is a hot topic in calf management. These programs involve feeding of more milk replacer than in conventional programs, such that calves consume about twice as much dry milk replacer solids.

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Getting calves off to a great start means paying attention to all the little details or “sweating the small stuff.” The young ones seem especially sensitive to changes in management, diet and even weather.

The results of lapses in management largely depend on the age of the calf and its surroundings. Early in life, management problems usually manifest themselves as diarrhea whereas, after weaning, respiratory problems are more typical.

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The Grober Young Animal Development Centre opened its doors in 2009 with the mission of uncovering and presenting best rearing practices for young animals. Over the past three years, approximately 300 calves, 40 lambs and 40 kid goats have resided at our Woodstock facility for the purpose of conducting nutritional and management research.

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