The First Hours After Calving Are Critical
Not to put too dramatic of a spin on it, but what you do—or don’t do—in the first few minutes of a calf’s life can impact how she performs the rest of her life.
“Events in the first 15 minutes after birth can make a lifetime of difference for newborns,” says Amanda Fordyce, a technical dairy calf consultant with Milk Products, Chilton, Wis.
She lists six key areas to help calves get off to their best start:
Delivery. The natural inclination is to help in delivery as soon as the calf’s front hooves appear. Doing so can cause more harm than good and interferes with some important natural processes.
Waiting to harvest colostrum until the next scheduled milking time may be detrimental to colostrum quality. Jerry Olson, technical services veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health, says that the immunoglobulin concentration decreases as the interval between calving and colostrum collection increases. The study shows that colostrum harvested within two hours of birth had an average IgG concentration of 11.3 grams per deciliter. By 14 hours after birth, IgG concentrations had dropped by a third to 7.2 grams per dl. Make it a rule to harvest colostrum sooner rather than later on your farm!
Don’t forget about the importance of storing fresh colostrum.
Once the colostrum has been harvested, it’s time to feed! Correctly feeding quality colostrum far outweighs any colostrum replacer, supplements, medicines or vaccines you can give the newborn calf. In most of these situations where calves were dying, the calf raisers were looking for an easy fix off the shelf rather than the real management issue.
Don’t forget about mama!
Within the first few hours after calving, a cow may start to show signs of hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia, commonly referred to as milk fever, is a potentially fatal metabolic disease that occurs when a cow’s blood serum calcium drops to below normal levels. If not handled properly, a cow can go from healthy to dead in a matter of hours. Knowing the signs and best treatment practices for this condition could make all the difference when it comes to saving an animal’s life.