The period from calving to three months of age is without question the most critical time for heifer growth and development. Heifers with a history of disease, insufficient nutrition or poor environmental conditions as young calves are likely to experience significant reproduction problems. Help clients pay attention to these areas of the young calf:

Environment: Providing calves with a clean, dry environment or shelter free of mud is of utmost importance to minimize exposure to infectious pathogens. Additionally, calves should be provided an environment that allows them to stand and nurse without difficulty. Rotating pastures and calving out heifers separate from older cows will help reduce calf susceptibility to scours.

Calf nutrition: Calves need adequate nutrition for health and growth, including a sufficient supply of high-quality colostrum and milk. Four quarts of colostrum within the first hours of life is essential. Transitioning calves to a dry grain starter program prior to weaning is important to ensure continued growth. Fresh, clean water should be available to calves at all times.

Cow nutrition: Nutritional support for the cow remains critical after calving. Microminerals zinc, copper, selenium and others play a major role in developing the calf’s immune response. Most of the nutrition the calf receives in the first few months comes from the cow, so it’s important to continue providing the cow with the proper balanced ration including micromineral and vitamin supplements.

Vaccinations: Protection from major respiratory, reproductive and clostridial diseases is needed at two to three months of age, or approximately two weeks prior to weaning. Calves should be vaccinated for BVD, IBR, PI3, BRSV, hardjo-bovis and the primary clostridial pathogens. Booster doses should be administered postweaning.

Minimize stress: Whenever possible, take steps to eliminate exposing young calves to unnecessary stress. Stress associated with extreme weather, lack of food, dusty or polluted air and overhandling makes calves more susceptible to disease.

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This information was provided by Novartis Animal Health.