Better ways to invest in calves
Western U.S. Calf and Heifer Technical Pro – Dr. Jennifer Trout, [email protected]
Animal Nutrition Marketing Intern – Kristen Burkhardt
Calves, while the future of your operation, can be a difficult area to invest in since the return is often waiting in the lactating pen. However, cows that don’t receive that initial investment can cost you in the long run.
Truly the foundation of any dairy are its calves. It’s important to give them your upmost attention from the moment they take their first breath. Jennifer Trout, Calf and Heifer Specialist, mentions that calves like a routine, every change and stressor, even minor ones, can add up. For example, a nutrition program affects calf growth, successful reproduction, and in the long-term impacts milk production. When it comes to your herd, it’s far more cost-effective to be preventative than reactionary when it comes to your calf program.
It’s hard to put an exact dollar amount when it comes to investing in your calves. But let’s take a look at the areas you can manage and improve on, to thrive later.
Colostrum – The kick starter or foundation for calf development. The better the colostrum, the better the calf – health, growth, and ultimately productivity. Use a refractometer to measure total proteins, grab a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk, and create a cleaning protocol for equipment and ensure that it is being followed. We can’t stress how important colostrum management is!
Vaccines – There is a huge cost that comes with pneumonia and scours. If your animals are getting sick as calves, it’s safe to say they probably won’t be your highest producing cows in your herd later. Work with your veterinarian to create a vaccine protocol that works best for your operation. Take preventative action here to save money down the road.
Calf comfort – Reducing stress and establishing a routine here is key. Do your calves have proper ventilation in the summer? Are they staying warm in the winter? Do they have clean, comfortable bedding? These are areas to consider when updating or creating your protocols.
Nutrition – This area has the potential to really set you up for success. Work with your local Calf and Heifer Specialist to create a program that can help you reach your goals now and in the future. Not only will you see a better performance from your calves, but in the long run you will see higher milk production, longer productive life, lower treatment costs, and more. Invest early, save later.
- Take a look at your first lactation performance, health data, conception rate for heifers. Are you meeting or exceeding these benchmarks? If not, it might be time to invest more into your calf program.
Calves are your herd’s investment, if you start them off right early on, you will set yourself up for success.