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1 August 2018 Jason Leslie

Tips to reduce disease in your calf shed

Calf rearing done well can be both rewarding and profitable, however when sickness occurs problems can escalate quickly. Prevention is the proven way to minimise this risk.

Here are some considerations for spring:

  • The calf shed should be dry and draft free with warm, dry bedding.
  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
  • Solid partitions, such as plywood, should be used between pens to stop direct contact of calves, minimising disease transfer.
  • Best practice is to collect calves at least twice a day, more frequently in bad weather, to ensure better colostrum intake and reduce hypothermia.
  • Use a non-slip mat in trailers, regularly hosed out between pick-ups and disinfected to reduce disease risk. Calves forced to sit in dirty trailers have their navel chords contaminated which becomes a common route of infection.
  • The use of plastic clamps on navel chords, plus Iodine Tincture Spray prior to going in trailer and again into shed, helps lower the incidence of navel ill and swollen joints.
  • Ensure calves get sufficient quality colostrum. Uptake of antibodies only occurs in the first 12 to 24 hours. This ability stops after 24 hours, so giving each calf at least 10 percent of their body weight in the first 12 hours is key, for example 40 kg calf requires 4 L of gold standard colostrum.
  • Antibodies are at their highest from the first milking, hence called ‘gold colostrum’. Always feed gold colostrum to newborn calves.
  • Have a separate pen for sick calves, and take care to prevent the spread of disease back to other calves.
  • Have a wash down area using disinfectants, such as Virukill, for spraying of calf pens prior to calves entering the calf shed, and for use in foot baths before entering the sick pen.
  • Using a disinfectant, such as Triple Clean, for general hygiene like cleaning calf feeding equipment is also important.

For further advice on setting up your calf shed, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative or visit our YouTube channel.


Jason Leslie

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