Skip to main content


What’s important during this life stage?

  • Maximizing calf health (keeping bedding/facilities/equipment clean, dry and sanitized to reduce scouring and respiratory disease)
  • Calf immune system development
  • Promoting early starter intakes for good rumen development
  • Reducing weaning stress

Common challenges:

  • Due to their underdeveloped immune systems at birth, calves are extremely susceptible to disease in their first two months of life. Scouring calves and/or calves experiencing respiratory disease have decreased performance, are at risk of re-infection and ultimately end up being poor performers in comparison to their healthy counterparts upon joining the lactating herd.

Tips for maximizing health and performance: 

  • Remember: Raising a healthy, productive calf starts before she’s born.
    • Calves need to be born into a clean, dry, well-ventilated environment with adequate amounts of dry bedding.
  • Be prepared for necessary birth assists.
    • Ensure that all calving equipment is clean, dry and sanitized.
    • Dip the navel with 7% tincture iodine as soon as possible after birth.
  • Remove the calf as soon as possible.
    • This helps to avoid injury from the dam and also aids in avoiding contamination from manure or other potential contaminants that may be present in the calving area.
  • Feed one gallon of high-quality colostrum within two hours of birth.
    • This provides essential antibodies and immune protection to the calf.
  • Cleanliness is key.
    • Proper hygiene is critical for young calves to thrive, especially in the first month of life, when their immune system is still developing.
    • Keep in mind that exposure to pathogens can be detrimental or even fatal in the first months of life.
  • Proper nutrition is critical.
    • Calves need to be offered a high-quality, highly palatable calf starter within the first three days of life.
    • Keep the calf starter fresh and clean. Avoid letting calf starter build up in calf buckets.
    • Consistent feeding of high-quality calf milk replacer or whole milk is essential for early calf performance. Follow the mixing and feeding directions closely.
    • Wean calves when they’re consistently consuming three pounds of calf starter per day for three days in a row.
  • Reduce stress.
    • Stressful events are hard on young calves and put them at risk of disease and decreased feed intake. Do not compound stresses.
    • Common stresses include calf handling, diet changes, pen movements, transportation, heat or cold stress and vaccinations.