Dairy cows are a lot like humans, nutrition is a very important part of their life from the very beginning. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your calves grow to become healthy cows.
According to The Holstein Foundation, a dairy cow gains 70% of its weight in the last 60 days before birth. This means the health and nutrition of the mother is very important during this period to help ensure the calf is born healthy. Cows that are properly fed and immunized produce higher quality colostrum, which is the first milk that a cow produces after giving birth. Colostrum is very essential for newborn calves because they are born without a working immune system. Colostrum supplies the calf with antibodies that help the calf fight off infections and stay healthy.
Bottle feeding is preferred over bucket feeding at a young age; why is that? When a calf has to lift its head and suck from the bottle this allows the milk to be diverted from the rumen and straight into the omasum or abomasum. This is very helpful for the calf because the rumen does not start functioning properly until the calf is about 60 days old. The more often a calf is fed, the better the calf will grow. Most dairy farmers feed the calves twice a day, but adding a third feeding during the day can be extremely beneficial to the calves growth.
Once the calf reaches one week old, offer a calf starter. Calf starter is a feed that includes pellets and corn. The calf might not take it at first, but it is important to always have fresh starter feed available to the calf. Along with starter feed, good quality alfalfa should be offered in small quantities. This will help the calf’s rumen to develop properly.
Remembering these few simple things are a great way to ensure a strong and healthy life for your dairy cows. For more information on dairy and nutrition visit the dairy page of our website.