Caring for the Babies

Calf health on the farm is vital to production.

Calf health on the farm is vital to overall production.

As the winter months approach, it’s time for dairy farmers to start thinking of how to keep their baby calves strong and healthy throughout the coming months.  It is imperative for most dairy farmers to take extremely good care of their calves through the winter to ensure that they will have a healthy and vibrant future generation of cows.  Baby calves represent the next generation and in doing so they will eventually be the money makers of the farm business.  Farming is like any business by which the bottom line is efficiency and making a profit.  To do so a farmer must therefore take extra special care and attention to the new calves that are born over the cold and brisk winters here in Canada.  But doing so is not always the easiest task when you have tons of calves to take care of and monitor.

Farmers in Wisconsin have implemented new technologies that have helped decrease labor and death rate in their on site calf facilities.   One farm, 3-D Dairy, has introduced computerized feeders to limit the amount of time and effort spent feeding calves twice a day.  These systems allow the calves to feed freely as they feel like it.  They are monitored by RFID tags that indicate how much each calf is allowed to drink and how much they have drank, this ensures that they are not drinking too much and will not become sick.  Schneider Farms utilizes a nursing barn that is temperature controlled around 7C (45F) and are individually housed to minimize calf to calf disease spreading.  Although a new born baby calf weighs between 70-100lbs they are fragile and can pick of disease very quickly if proper sanitization and care is not taken.  On the same level they are literally born in a barn, which tends not to be the cleanest environment.  Common practical cleaning tips can be extremely useful, your barn does not need to be a clean as a surgical room, but should still provide a clean place where pathogens and disease are not lurking around every corner.

Calf care is something that I take very seriously on my home farm.  Not only do I love spending time and playing with the new babies, but I understand that these little monsters will one day be pumping out milk that generates a profit on our farm.  With more and more technologies available to help the calves along by keeping them fit and healthy, farmers are seeing greater returns in terms of not having to replace heifers that could not make it through the freezing winter months.  I understand that not every farm can afford to have automatic feeders and heated rooms, but you would be surprised how much a calf blanket and clean bedding can do for a calf!  Although good calf care techniques are imperative on the farm, it all comes down to using common sense and creating a comfortable and enjoyable environment for your babies!

Automatic Calf Feeder

Example of Claves using an automatic milk feeder.

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2 thoughts on “Caring for the Babies

  1. Owen says:

    This post is so enlightening. Besides the animal welfare aspect you bring forward, the financial realism is refreshing: “Farming is like any business by which the bottom line is efficiency and making a profit.” Thank you.

  2. Thanks Owen, I really appreciate your input. My baby calves really do mean a lot to me!

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