After weaning, calves should be housed in equal sized / aged groups, ideally one week after milk feeding has ceased. This avoids two major changes in routine at one time. Group calves according to size. Weaning from a machine feeding system is normally reached earlier (as early as week 5) and should still be tied to starter intake (min 900g/31.7oz for 3 consecutive days).
The calf’s environment is very important in ensuring its health. Calf housing should provide a clean environment that promotes healthy calves, minimizes disease risk and mortality and hence encourages high growth rates. One of the most common diseases caused by its environment is pneumonia. It can be prevented by:
- A warm dry bed
- Adequate pen dimensions
- Easy access to feed and water
- Keeping stocking density low
- Providing adequate ventilation with minimum draft
- Relative humidity should be kept low and air movements maintained even in cold weather
- Not mixing calves from different sources
Calf accommodation and pens should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and de-stocked on a regular basis. The climatic environment of the calf can have a major influence on its nutritional requirements. Extremes in both heat and cold will impact the calves’ efforts to maintain a constant level of body heat and continue to be productive. Calves have a thermo-neutral zone considered to be 10°C to 26°C. Environmental temperatures outside that range result in higher caloric demands simply for maintenance. The lower critical temperature of a calf declines with age (see table below).
|Age calf (day)||Lower critical temperature °C|
This energy requirement detracts from growth and may have a negative effect on efficiency and even health. Research, under controlled conditions with adequate bedding and dry humidity, indicate that calves housed at -4°C (24.8°F) require about 30% more calories for maintenance. This number will increase as temperatures reduce, humidity rises and calves are subject to wet bedding etc. Heat Stress: above 26°C (78.8°F) increases cortisol and decreases colostrum absorption. High temperatures tend to reduce feed intake.