Practical Calf Rearing Points
John Twigge, Technical Manager Frank Wright Trouw Nutrition

The economics of calf rearing extend further than the cost per day or the cost per kg of gain. The influence of calf rearing can affect the lifetime profitability of the animal.
Effective calf rearing can be achieved by following the 5 C’s
Colostrum - it's a race between the bacteria in the environment and the antibodies in the colostrum - first one there is the winner !   Colostrum has 60 times more IgG (antibodies) than normal milk.   Remove the calf from the cow as soon as possible. Milk the colostrum from the dam and feed at 10% of calf body weight within the first 6 hours

Calories - be prepared to increase the amount of milk powder mixed per litre when increased growth rates are required or when temperatures fall.  Changing from 125g/litre to 150g/litre will typically increase growth rates by around 11.5%. Alternatively if night temperatures drop in the calf house from 15 C to 0 C then growth rates will fall by almost 24% unless compensated for by an increase in daily milk powder consumption.    Water - although there are no calories in water, calves with access to clean fresh water at all times eat more calf starter, gain weight faster and generally scour less often.

Cleanliness - maternity pen should be clean and dry. Keep calves away from adult animals. Clean, wash, disinfect and dry housing between calves. In calf house work from youngest to oldest animals. Wash and sanitise buckets utensils etc between feedings. Provide fresh calf starter, milk replacer and water every day. Throw out leftovers.
Comfort - in the first week of life a calf will lie down for 19 hours each day.   Even at 6 weeks it will spend 17 hours lying each day so a clean, dry and insulated bed isimportant if the energy consumed by the calf is to be used for growth rather than in trying to keep warm.

Consistency - weigh milk powder. Using jugs and cups to gauge the weight of milk powder introduces variation.   Keep the water temperature the same every time. Same feeds , same time, same temperature same person.   Change = stress = sick calves.    Do not feed waste milk to calves.   It is a very efficient way of infecting calves.
Waste milk is very variable, one study showed that waste milk with an average milk fat of 3.8% varied from 1.1% to 5.3%; milk with an average protein of 3.75% varied from 2.9% to 4.7% and SCC average of 2 million cells/ml ranged from 1 million to 4.5 million.
The young dairy calf is the future of the dairy enterprise, investment in a sound rearing schedule is an investment for life.