Why and How to Weigh Your Calves

Weighing calves is a good way to benchmark how well your milk fed period is going.

Why you should weigh your calves

When it comes to calf management, the best thing you can do as a producer is keep data. By tracking health status, treatments, drinking levels and intake of starter, you can measure calf performance. The milk fed period is a crucial stage of an animal’s life and can have a big impact on that calf’s future success in the milking herd.

By tracking the weight of all your calves, you can determine the average birth weight and weaning weight of your calves which can help measure the success of your milk feeding program. The goal is usually to double the birth weight of calves by 56 days.

Keeping health records of your calves also helps identify trends. By weighing your calves, you can see how well they are growing in that 56-day period, and you can start to identify trends. Seasonality, such as heat stress in the summer may cause calves to grow a little less. Or you may notice slower growth in the winter, with the cold weather causing calves to use more energy to keep warm. If you notice this trend, you may choose to switch to a higher energy formula during the winter months and can then compare average growth rates from the previous year to see if increased energy prevented the dip in growth.

How to weigh a calf

Weighing calves can be done two ways; by using a digital scale, or a weight tape. When using a weight tape, you want the calf standing on a hard, flat surface, ideally with their head up. Then, simply wrap the weigh tape around the calf, right behind their front legs. You want to make sure it’s tight enough that the hair is going to lay flat but not so tight that the calf is being squeezed. Read the number on the tape and record it.

If the calf is not standing correctly, it’s going to change the weight reading. If they’re standing scrunched up, or stretched out, it will increase or decrease the weight reading. That’s why we want to make sure calves are standing square with their heads up right.

For a visual tutorial, check out our video on The Dairy Academy: How to & why you should weigh your calves (youtube.com)

Grober Nutrition