New born calf care checklist

1. Prefresh cow care

Observe:

  • Pack housing – at least 100 sq.ft. per cow
  • Stall housing – not exceed 100 percent stocking, 80 percent rate preferred.
  • Feed bunk in group housing – at least 2.5 feet per cow, prefer more liberal amount of space last week before calving.
  • Ration issufficiently energy dense to accommodate decrease in dry matter intake the last 7 to 10 days before calving.

Action if standards are not met:

  • Provide more space on pack, at the feed bunk
  • Keep fewer cows in prefresh housing
  • Rebalance the ration

2. Calving management

Observe:

  • Dead on arrival rate – is it recorded, how close to 5 percent for cows, 8 percent for heifers?
  • Dystocia management – how often are closeup cows monitored? Is monitoring recorded? How long are cows allowed to show signs of delivery before assistance is given – one hour for cows, two hours for heifers given normal presentation?
  • Pathogen management – how wet and/or soiled is the bedding in the calving area? How likely is a calf to get adult cow manure in its mouth before being removed from the calving area?

Action if standards are not met:

  • More frequent monitoring of closeup cows.
  • Add record keeping of monitoring – improves communication,spot weak linksin program.
  • Add a training session for all employees that possibly assist in delivering calves emphasizing timing and prescribed techniques.
  • Develop an obstetrical protocol that can be posted to encourage use of prescribed steps for abnormal presentations and twins. Train persons how to follow these steps.
  • Develop a sanitation protocol for reducing newborn exposure to adult cow manure and calving area pathogens.

3. Care for the newborn calf

Observe:

  • Navel dipping – how soon after birth is a newborn’s umbilical cord and navel opening dipped? Is the dip a 7% tincture ofiodine?
  • Calf moved to clean area soon after birth to reduce exposure to adult cow manure?
  • How soon is assistance given a newborn to get her up on her feet? 
  • Especially in freezing weather, how soon is a newborn calf’s coat dry enough to fluff out? Is a warm place available to speed up drying of her coat?
  • Are records kept of newborn care? Who did what and when?
  • How soon after birth is colostrum fed a newborn heifer?
  • What quantity of colostrum isfed a newborn heifer?
  • Is colostrum quality (antibody concentration) evaluated, and what quality colostrum isfed a newborn heifer?
  • Is colostrum quality (bacterial concentration) evaluated routinely?
  • Is effectiveness of passive transfer of antibodies checked routinely (blood serum total protein)?

Action if standards are not met:

  • Develop and use a newborn navel dipping protocol using a 7 percent tincture ofiodine dip.
  • Establish a protocol for moving calves from the calving area to a clean environment.
  • Add record keeping of newborn care – when calf was moved from calving area, navel dipped, fed colostrum, who provided care.
  • Set up a protocol to get calves dried off and warm during freezing weather – maybe look into supply of towels, a warming area.
  • Using a Colostrometer or Brix refractometer check the antibody concentration of colostrum currently on hand. Train an employee to use a Colostrometer or Brix refractometer.
  • Submit a colostrum sample to a lab to check for species and concentration of bacteria.
  • Establish a protocol for feeding colostrum that feeds enough clean, good quality colostrum early enough to get 80% of the calves testing 5.0 or higher for blood serum total protein.

Author

Sam Leadley

Sam Leadley
62 articles

Consultant on Calf/Heifer Management at Attica Veterinary Associates.

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Attica Veterinary Associates

Attica Veterinary Associates

Attica Veterinary Associates provide veterinary services and products, independent consultation in dairy management, nutrition and performance, and trainings.

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