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Successful calf rearing starts as soon as the calf is born. Ensure that all calves are cared for at all times, including in the paddock and on their way to the calf sheds.
When moving cows and calves, stay safe and don’t turn your back on a newly calved cow. Even cows that are usually placid can become aggressive after calving. Keep the calf between you and the cow and don’t take any dogs or children into the calving paddock.
When lifting calves, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Get assistance if needed. Refer to the video at the bottom of this page for further information on how to correctly handle and lift calves.
Record all births and make sure you know the recording procedures for your farm prior to calving.
Check the system used on your farm for matching cows and calves. If in doubt, checking the breeding information can help; is the cow due? When was the mating date? Does the breed match the bull/sire? LIC also offers parentage/DNA testing.
Temporary identification tags can be used for newborn calves in the paddock, e.g. elastic neckbands with tags. Once back in the shed, proper tags can be put on in an environment that is clean and dry. If tagging in the paddock, ensure that the calf’s ear is clean, dry and disinfected.
Calves that had a difficult birth or that are born in poor weather are more likely to have trouble standing and suckling. Identify high risk calves as soon as possible, record their numbers, and bring them to the calf shed to get warm and have a good feed of colostrum.
To prevent navel infection, spray navels of newborn calves in the paddock and on arrival at the shed. Completely spray or dip the navel with iodine. Don’t use teat spray as the glycerine in teat spray can keep navels soft and moist.
Good practice is to pick up newborn calves from the paddock twice daily to bring them to a warm, clean environment and ensure they get enough gold colostrum in the first hours of life.
The trailer used for picking up calves should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. To make transport safer for calves, AstroTurf or another easily cleaned, non-slip material can be used in the bottom of the trailer. Don't overload the trailer – there should be enough room so that all calves can lie down comfortably. Make two trips if there is not enough room. Calves move around easily so travel at walking pace.
The below video shows how to transport calves to the shed carefully and correctly.