Raising Young Dairy Calves

The First Three Months Are the Most Important.

Healthy dairy calf

Well developed young calf

The best guarantee to raise healthy and productive dairy cows lay in the first three months of the calf’s life. If you are not able to get the most out of this period, the chances for optimal growth and capability of producing and reproduction are reduced significantly.

A mistake some farmers make is that they just look at the costs of milk replacer and wean as soon as possible.  In their opinion the calf doesn’t need to grow that much in the first months. They will catch up this growth when they switch to forages and concentrates, these farmers argue.

What you must not forget is that already in the first months the foundation is being laid for the potential of muscle tissue and skeleton growth plus the buildup of resistance against diseases. All this is crucial in the calf’s successful development .

This article shows some more benefits of early growth in the first months, like a younger age at first calving and more milk production during the dairy cow’s life. If you look at all these factors, investing a little bit more in the first months will certainly pay off.

What about veterinarian costs? Everyone knows that treating and curing sick calves will cost you a lot of money. Sick calves are also a threat to the other, in many cases, younger calves. If you are able to raise healthier heifers, the veterinarian costs will certainly be much less.

A calf that has started the first months successfully has developed a good digestive system. This well developed system is able to process forages and concentrates in a more efficient way than a calf that is only beginning its real growth after the weaning period.

By investing a little bit more in the first months, you are able to reduce the overall costs in raising healthy, fertile and productive heifers. Those few extra kg of milk replacer always outweigh the extra forages and concentrates you will need later on to raise your heifers. More information is available in the article about the benefits of calf milk replacer.

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  1. SOS.Urgent guidance needed. I am just getting started as a young farmer in dairy, i have been doing crops. I managed to buy 15 male dairy calves. collecting them on 18th Sept, 2013. I am confused and under pressure, i will have to feed them on milk replacer, found it, 25Kg selling at $80.How Much of it will i need? and for how long. I don’t seem to find anyone who is knowledgeable about its use.
    Please Help!If you have a book send it to onganiolian, call +260975281111, Zambia

    • Joost de Groot says:

      Hi Ongani,

      Lately I’ve found a website from a colleague that has some interesting and valuable information for people like you, who are just starting out with raising cattle. I’ve bought the package myself back then and went through it. It’s worth every Dollar of it. Here’s the link to it:

      I sincerely wish you all the best in raising the dairy calves and if you run into problems raising these calves, don’t hesitate to contact me again.

      Thanks, Joost.

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