All about calf management

Tuesday November 21 2017

A calf in a farm in Murang'a.

A calf in a farm in Murang'a. During the first 12 hours after birth, it is extremely important that the calf ingests colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and antibodies. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NELSON MAINA
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Calf management starts before the animal is born.

The pregnant dam should be provided with proper nutrition to ensure that the calf is born strong and healthy.

Immediately after calving, ensure that the calf is breathing by wiping off mucus from its nostrils.

Alternatively, you can rub some straws on the calf’s nostrils to stimulate sneezing or hold the calf’s hind limbs and swing it to remove mucus from the nostrils and provide a clear air way. ?

The calf’s navel is then tied, cut and disinfected with 2 per cent iodine to prevent infection that may lead to navel ill.

Calf feeding is aimed at providing the required nutrients and encouraging rumen development.

During the first 12 hours after birth, it is extremely important that the calf ingests colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and antibodies.

This is because 24 hours after birth, the animal may not be able to absorb the antibodies. ?

Colostrum feeding may continue for 4-5 days. During this period, the calf’s rumen is not fully developed and milk ingested goes directly from the esophagus into the abomasums through the esophageal groove. ?

This groove allows only liquid feeds to pass through but not solids, so at this age, the calf should be fed on the dam’s milk or Intromilk milk replacer.

Intromilk replacer can be fed through buckets or nipple bottles which need to be placed at a higher level where the calf has to stretch their necks to drink.

How to feed a calf.

How to feed a calf. Intromilk replacer can be fed through buckets or nipple bottles which need to be placed at a higher level where the calf has to stretch their necks to drink. PHOTO | COURTESY

The calf may consume up to 2 litres of milk or more per day and should be fed twice daily.

Calves overfed with milk may develop scours, a major cause of early mortalities.

In the event that there’s scouring, the calf should be treated with Limoxin ws, a water soluble powder.

Milk replacer is a quality feed that is meant to meet the growth and development requirements of a young calf.

A good milk replacer is equivalent to successful calf rearing.

This is because high quality milk replacer ensures that the calf’s growth and performance is higher than that of the cow’s natural milk.

FRESH DRINKING WATER THROUGHOUT

Intromilk is economical and is free from diseases that may be transferred from the dam to the calf.

Intromilk helps in faster rumen development, allowing the calf to start digesting grass earlier hence earlier maturity.

A calf should consume Intromilk equivalent to 10 per cent of its body weight. Some 125g of Intromilk calf milk replacer is added per 1 liter of warm water, mixed and fed immediately.

The calf may be weaned at 12 weeks of age. Weaning is the transition from milk to solid feed. At this age the rumen is usually beginning to develop.

Weaning should be done gradually by feeding calves good quality fodder/hay and concentrates.?

The concentrates can be in form of calf pellets, which stimulate rumen function through establishment of microbial population and stimulation of growth of rumen papillae.

A farmer feeds her calves.

A farmer feeds calves in her farm. It’s important for every animal to consume minerals in their diet. FILE PHOTO | NMG

It’s important for every animal to consume minerals in their diet. Calves should be fed on mineral blocks adlibitum.

Intromin mineral block is rich in vitamins and essential minerals which provide the calf with all it needs for strong bones.

Calves should be allowed fresh drinking water throughout. Do not give water immediately before the calf drinks milk so that they can ingest sufficient amount of milk.

Calves should be dehorned within the first month of birth as it is less painful and stressful for the animal.

Ear tags may be applied immediately after birth for proper identification and recordkeeping.

Extra mammary teats may be removed when the calf is still young as it is less stressful. These are surgically excised and Limoxin aerosol spray applied to prevent infection.

Bull calves not meant for breeding may be castrated at birth or between 3- 6 months of age as they heal faster and it is less stressful.

Vaccination can be done to prevent diseases like blackleg, Anthrax, FMD, Lumpy Skin and CBPP etc.

-The writer is the head of communication at Elgon Kenya Ltd


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