Healthy Calves for a Lifetime of Productivity


Source: Boehringer Ingelheim

Ensuring the health of your replacement animals is key to the long-term health and productivity of your herd. Now’s the time to lay the groundwork:

  • It starts with building strong immunity to help protect young calves from infectious agents that can cause respiratory, digestive and other diseases.
  • Parasite control and scours management can help minimize roadblocks to healthy growth and weight gain.

Below are just a few things you can do to start your calves off right.

  • How can my calves build strong immunity to help fight off disease?

    Because it takes months for a calf’s immune system to fully develop, colostrum (the dam’s first antibody-rich milk) and proper vaccination are critical.

    Colostrum management

    • Because the cow’s antibodies don’t cross the placenta during pregnancy, the calf relies on the antibodies provided in the dam’s colostrum
    • Colostrum absorption begins to decline shortly after birth until 24 hours of age, when absorption ceases.
    • Colostrum needs to be fed to dairy calves as soon as possible after calving.
    • As a rule of thumb, the calf should receive about 4 quarts of colostrum during the first eight to ten hours of life
    • Colostrum replacements may be necessary if maternal colostrum is not available or in short supply
    • To help cow herds produce better quality and quantity of colostrum, provide pregnancy-safe vaccinations and solid nutrition to maintain body condition scores between 3.0 and 3.5 before calving

    Calf vaccinations

    • As maternal antibodies decline, vaccinations can help protect calves until their immune systems are fully developed
    • Vaccination protocols should be based on the disease risks in your area and the recommendations of your veterinarian
    • Common early vaccinations include those against:
      • Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)
      • Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) Types 1 and 2, including BVDV Type 1b
      • Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV)
      • Mannheimia haemolytica
      • Parainfluenza 3 (PI3)
      • Clostridium spp.
      • Pinkeye (Moraxella bovis)