Basic aspects of calf rearing

Focusing on the essential

The use of substances with antibiotic effects is regulated with increasing intensity. All the more reason to focus on the basics and consider the fundamental aspects of livestock farming and nutrition for calf rearing.

The basics include banal things like light, air, water, available space, hygiene and adequate nutrition. There have been many reports about appropriate nutrition in the recent past and the experts agree. The farm’s own calves should get an intensive milk supply in the first four weeks (at least 10 litres of milk feed per day). In the feed production, the energy content of the daily milk feed has to cover at least the maintenance need of the purchased calves (at least 1 kilogram of milk replacer per day).

Instead of using an antibiotic therapy, farmers can use a probiotic method against diarrhoea pathogens. Contamination with cryptosporidium and bacteria can be countered with selected phytogenic additives. We can recommend products from the Miravit range, for example Miravit Kryptosan. And boiled linseed still shows its positive effects in Miravit CelluLin.

Pay attention to the water quality

A stable with a lot of light (about 500 lux for 16 hours) promotes food intake. This is usually no problem in the summer. But what about the lighting programme in the winter months? It must be kept in mind that ruminants eat much less in darkness. Multiple troughs per group supply impeccable water to the calves. It is important that the water quality and flow rate of the troughs are known. A lack of water limits feed intake. A calf doesn’t stand in line to drink water, it resigns itself very quickly.

When it comes to hygiene, one question has to be asked: cleaning products or just high-pressure cleaner with cold water before disinfection? Keep this in mind – a disinfectant doesn’t have grease-removing properties, which makes it essential to use a cleaning product. In group rearing, each calf should have an area of at least three square meters available. That is why it must be considered how many calves are placed in the stable and how large the stable is. Calves also live in a ranking and the weakest ones sometimes want to retreat.

Pressure ventilation for calf rearing

The pressure ventilation built by the Hobbiesiefken farm in Ammerland provides a good service.

Calves also have high demands in terms of air quality. And it’s important to ventilate the walking and lying surfaces of the animals, not the feeding gangway at the farmer's eye level. Calves are frequently kept in open-front stables and this does create an air exchange, as long as it’s windy outside and the stable wasn’t closed too tightly with wind nets. However, there is no air exchange without wind. From a physical perspective, the air represents a mass (about 1.3 kilograms/cubic metre) and is therefore subject to the laws of gravity and inertia. This makes it difficult to manage a calf barn without forced ventilation. There may be times that work reasonably well even without ventilation. But this also depends on luck and coincidence. Pressure ventilation has been reliable in such cases by precisely and permanently bringing fresh outside air into the livestock area. This can be implemented with hoses or tubes that have specific perforations.