Receiving Protocols Can Promote Calf Health – Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus

Posted on December 21, 2015 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus calf products coordinator
Raising calves can be very rewarding and very challenging. Bringing calves from multiple sources can certainly complicate the process, but following a good receiving protocol will help reduce the challenges.

Identification and health checks
The first step is properly identifying calves. Clearly state the source farm, date and time.  Note anything out of the ordinary, such as swollen navel, lethargy or anything you may want to recall later. If possible, record the calf’s weight on arrival. All of this information will be good for tracking the individual animal as well as trends specific to the source.

Check the navel when received. Look for swelling and feel the abdomen to see if there is a hard, finger-like structure or the area is wet, smells or has a discharge. If you see any of these signs, work with your veterinarian to establish a navel treatment protocol.  If receiving calves within 48 hours, dip navels with 7-percent tincture iodine to ensure good navel health.

Depending on the animal’s age, you may want to take a blood sample to monitor passive transfer. That number may be indicative to a change in protocol. Some producers will take extra precautions for a calf with a low reading. In this case, you may want to incorporate a second dose of colostrum, a dose of colostrum replacer or Inner Shield.

Others may use passive transfer to help determine raising costs or purchase prices. We know a good colostrum program can make or break a successful calf raising program. Having this information is extremely valuable.

Work with your vet to establish an incoming vaccination program. Take a good look at your current program, treatments and challenges. This will help establish a good base line for a vaccination program. Common areas to address are scours or respiratory issues as well as possibly adding vitamins and minerals. Again, some of this will be determined by the health of the calf coming in and the protocols at the source farm. Also discuss a BVD protocol or testing.

This time of year, incoming calves less than 21 days of age should receive a calf jacket and be placed in a dry, clean, deep-bedded area.

Once you have them in place, offer electrolytes for the first feeding. This will help with any minor dehydration and the calf will be much more apt to drink milk at the next feeding. Begin offering milk or milk replacer at a rate of 2 quarts and 13 percent solids at the second and third meal. If a calf fails to finish milk after the second feeding, offer milk in a bottle followed by electrolytes.  Mark the hutch as a slow calf and treat if it does not finish the third feeding.

After a couple days, if the calves remain aggressive, increase to 3 quarts of milk or milk replacer (13 percent solids) usually between days 10 and 14. In winter, be sure to incorporate winter feeding protocols. Either feed a higher volume of milk or add Calf Energize to increase calories.

Always offer warm (100 degrees F) drinking water twice daily within 20 minutes of feeding milk. Offering water will keep calves hydrated and stimulate starter intake. Offer ad libitum access to high quality starter grain from day 1.

Complete health exam
On day 7 (or seven days after arrival), do a complete health exam. Palpate the navel and look for abnormalities.  Score the manure; it should be firming up.  If calves are loose, continue electrolyte therapy and consult your vet for other treatment options.

Look for signs of early respiratory onset, eye discharge, nasal discharge, rapid shallow breathing, lethargy, and failure to drink. Talk to your vet if these symptoms are present.

No matter the source of your calves, following the above guidelines will help boost the success of your calf raising program.

Category: Animal health
Starting Strong - Calf Care