Good calf rearing is an important undertaking because the productivity of cattle is mainly influenced by the care it receives when young. Young stocks form the foundation of replacement stock, can be used to expand dairy stock and/or can be sold to generate income for the farmer. To achieve all these, the young stock should be fast growing, healthy, not costly to raise and have reduced mortality.
Young stocks includes - calves (birth to weaning 2-4 weeks), weaners (from weaning to 12 months) and heifers (from 12 months to lactation)
An expectant cow should be brought to the calving place 2-3 days before the expected calving date. This is facilitated by a good record keeping. A cow can give birth in two places
Once the cow calves down allow it to thoroughly lick the calf to clear nostrils off mucus. Licking also stimulates thoracic muscles hence the calf can start breathing. If by any reason the cow is not able to lick the calf, assistance to open the nostrils should be given. Cut the umbilical cord with disinfected clean razor. Apply copper sulphate or iodine to protect the naval area from infection. Allow the calf to suckle colostrum. Ensure that the cow expels the placenta and dispose it off safely.
Ensure that the calf gets colostrum (first milk) within the first 72 hours. During this time the calf’s gut is highly permeable to intact macromolecules. To ensure that the calf gets as much colostrum as possible leave the calf to stay with the mother for one week. Colostrum usually changes very fast to normal milk. This is necessary as:
The surplus colostrum can be kept in a freezer for future us in case of orphaned calves.
If the calf does not get colostrum from its mother after birth then the following should be done:
Feed the calf three times a day.
At this stage the calf depends majorly on fluids. The calf may be fed on:
At this stage the calf should be fed with a combination of milk and solid feed. Concentrate (calf pellets) are beneficial at this time. The calf should be given a starter diet which should be:-
It entails total withdraw of liquid feed from a calf so that it entirely depends on solid feeds (roughages and concentrates)
Either of the following criteria may be followed.
It is cheaper to raise young stock in the farm for the purposes of replacing the existing stock or expanding the herd than purchasing from the neighboring farm or market. Because the productivity of an animal has a direct bearing on the care it was given when young, it is important that farmers put emphasis on caring for the young stock. Still further a well-cared for animal fetches more price than the one neglected. The farmers’ sole interest in any enterprise they engage in should be to reap in much income; good caring for young stock realizes this and therefore worth to venture into.
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