- Supplies of metabolics, electrolytes, navel spray etc. on hand or ordered
- New team members up to date on farm policies and what to expect during calving
- Calf trailer and feeding equipment clean and disinfected
- Calf shed clean and disinfected and all repairs and maintenance done
- Designated sick calf area ready
- Fresh bedding laid in calf shed
- Calving kit prepared
A well-stocked calving kit will save you making trips between the paddock and the shed.
Keep your calving kit at the gate of the springer paddock. Have a team member in charge of making sure it is restocked regularly.
Calving kit contents
- Bucket with a lid to contain kit (tape a checklist of contents inside the lid).
- Metabolics (clearly labelled milk fever treatments and starter drench).
- 3 calving ropes or chains (strong, supple and cleaned after each use).
- 2 litre container of lube (a plunger pump is an easy way to dispense lube if hands are busy).
- Towel and soap for cleaning hands
- Notebook and pencil (A pencil will still work in wet conditions, unlike a pen).
- Ear tags or other calf identification system (Pre numbered tags with corresponding numbers on a record sheet will save time and reduce the chance of recording mistakes).
- Spray paint - red plus another colour (red can be used as a warning colour. E.g. withhold milk. Communicate this with staff).
- Gloves - for rectal or other exam
- Head torch and spare batteries
- Iodine spray - pre-mixed with water (do not use teat dip as an alternative).
- Key contact numbers (vet, manager) on laminated sheet. Save numbers in phone).
- Calving intervention guide
- Food/energy bars
Looking after your team
Planning and preparing for calving with your farm team will reduce stress when calving is in full swing and help it run smoothly.
Hold a team meeting prior to calving and decide who will do what and when. Record the plan where everyone can see it. Introduce new staff to systems and processes so everyone is on the same page when calving starts. Establish a roster and make sure staff know how to fill out timesheets.
Eating well is important and some owners provide staff with crock pots, keep healthy snacks at the shed or have a cooked breakfast together after milking.
Watch for signs of stress, meet regularly and talk often. For more information on rosters and wellbeing visit the People section of our website.
Health and hygiene
Newborn calves require more care and attention as they have a lower immune system. Following good biosecurity practices will help you rear healthy calves and keep the farm team healthy.
Good biosecurity measures include controlling wild birds and rodents, managing visitors and regularly cleaning equipment, work clothes and vehicles.
Minimising people-related biosecurity risks
- Notify visitors, truck drivers, and staff about biosecurity requirements.
- Have a separate pair of farm clothing and boots specifically for use around calves. Clean these regularly, especially during any outbreaks of scours.
- Place foot baths or disinfecting mats at the entrance to the calf shed to disinfect boots
- Bobby calf collection should be managed to avoid the truck operator going into areas where calves are housed, as they are a high risk of spreading diseases.
Calf pickup in the paddock
- Pick calves up twice a day to minimise the time they spend in dirty environments.
- Spray navels with iodine and do not overload the calf trailer.
- Clean the trailer regularly with disinfectant to minimise bacteria.
- Use a disinfectant regularly to clean pens and prevent bacteria build-up. The disinfectant should be safe to use around feed, water, and calves.
- Keep calves in pens based on their age. Weak or small calves may be better off in younger pens, but check with your veterinarian before mixing ages.
- Maximise sunlight – it is effective at killing bacteria.
- Clean out, disinfect and replace bedding in pens at the start of the season, between batches of calves and at the end of the season.
Feed and water
- Clean all feeding equipment with hot water and suitable detergent after each use and draw hot water through the teats.
- Try and place feed and water containers so staff can access them from the outside of the pens to reduce the risk of bacteria entering the pen through footwear.
Segregation of sick calves
- A designated area for sick calves will help minimise the risk of diseases spreading.
- Position the sick pen to one side of the shed and prevent contact with healthy calves, either through a solid partition or by separation ensuring no nose to nose contact.
- Feed healthy calves before going to feed, check, and treat sick calves.
- Use separate feeding equipment for healthy and sick calves, otherwise ensure sick calves are fed last.
- Wear disposable gloves when handling and feeding sick calves.
- Clean out, disinfect, and dry sick calf pens between batches.
- When sick calves appear healthy, use a recovery pen for a few days as they can continue to shed bacteria. Do not put them straight back in with healthy calves.
- Birds, rodents, and other pests must be controlled to minimise the spread of infection.
- Keep water and feed troughs clean and free of pest droppings.
Zoonoses are infections which can be transmitted between animals and people or vice versa.
Diseases that people can contract from handling dairy animals in New Zealand include Leptospirosis, Cryptosporidiosis, Campylobacter, Salmonellosis and Ringworm. To keep both humans and animals healthy, it is important to maintain high cleanliness and hygiene standards and vaccinate your herd where possible after discussing with your veterinarian.