No matter what method a dairy farmer uses to raise replacement heifers, the one sure thing is that the first 10 to 12 weeks of a heifer’s life have a profound impact on the following 18 months. In general, newborn calves must be fed good quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Calf quarters must be clean, dry and draught-free.
Hygiene is a priority and water, whether for drinking or washing pens, should be chlorinated. Use a 1% formalin solution to spray calf housing and pens. Clean, fresh water should be offered an hour from feeding so as not to dilute the rennet secreted by the stomach. Good quality roughage can be offered to help develop the rumen before weaning.
Malcolm Stewart-Burger founded the Society of Master Dairymen and designed the Maxi Milk System. He is currently a part-time consultant to Nutex Feeds and De Heus. Contact Malcolm at [email protected]. Please state ‘Milking for profit’ in the subject line of your email.