2. Key Terms
• Heat (oestrus) the period when the female will accept service by the male. The
act of service by the male (bull) is known as bulling
• Lactation the period of time that the animal is in milk
• Calving interval the time between one calving and the next for an individual
• Calving index the average time between one calving and the next for the herd
• Dry period the time between the end of one lactation and the start of the next
(the period when the cow is not producing milk)
• Service insemination of the cow by a bull or artificial insemination
4. • There are 1 841 000 dairy cows in the UK across 14 060 dairy farms, thereby
averaging each herd to 130 cows
• The average milk yield per cow is 7 717 litres per year. On average, each person in
the UK consumes 75 litres of liquid milk per year, 10 litres of yoghurt and eats
6.1kg of cheese
Breed Holstein (Friesian)
Age at 1st Calving 2 years
Average number of lactations 3-4
Average yield 7 717 L
Days dry 50
Housed inside 5-7 months
Gestation period 280 days
10 tonnes of grass in
12 000L water per
10 tonnes of
silage in winter 2-3 tonnes of
food over the
7 717L of milk per
1 calf every 365 days
6. Milk Composition
4% Butterfat3.2% Protein
The farmer is interested in the
proportions of butterfat and
protein because this is what the
milk price is based on. This milk
price is also based on the
hygienic quality (decided by a
Bactoscan reading) and the
somatic cell count, which is the
indicator for mastitis. The price
paid to dairy farmers has been
decreasing – in July 2015 it
stood at 24.87p per litre.
The lactation cycle is the time from one calving to the next, including the time the
cow is lactating and the dry period. The cow must produce a calf in order to
lactate. The cycle typically lasts 420 days due to the demand placed on the high
yielding dairy cow.
After calving, it generally takes a cow 4-8 weeks to reach peak milk yield in terms of
litres/day. After the peak mild yield, the yield will decline at around 2-2.5% per
8. Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
Initially, the DMI is low. It increases at a slower rate than the milk yield and reaches
a maximum at 10-12 weeks after calving.
The DMI is approximately 3.5% of cow liveweight (for example, a 700kg cow will
have a DMI of 24.5 700 x 0.035)
However… a feed such as silage or grass contains 25% dry matter, so the fresh
matter intake of the cow would be four times her dry matter intake (98kg of fresh
matter per day)
Cows with higher milk yields and heavier cows have higher intakes.
The liveweight of the cow is at a minimum 12-14 weeks after calving.
In early lactation, the demand for nutrients is high because of the high daily milk
yield. However, DMI is not yet at the maximum. The cow is in negative energy
balance – this means she cannot eat enough to meet her energy requirements so
instead she mobilises her body reserves (body fat) which is known as ‘milking off
If the weight loss of the cow is too high in early lactation she may have a reduced
milk yield, low protein content of milk and reduced fertility. In early lactation the
aim is to keep the cow below 0.5kg/d, with the cow losing a maximum of 35kg in
the first 10 weeks of lactation.
In mid-late lactation, the milk yield decreases and the appetite increases so the
cow is in positive energy balance (eats more than enough for maintenance and
production thereby also uses food to replenish her body reserves). Therefore the
cow is stable in mid lactation so she will should be able to gain 0.5-.0.75kg/d.
Cows should be dried off (stop lactating) before the next lactation and this is
achieved by not milking her. This provides a recovery period for the udder. If the
cow does not have a dry period, the following lactation yield could be reduced by
up to 20%.
The average gestation length (pregnancy) is 280 days – however this is dependant
on breed of cow, number of calves carried and sex of calf.
Signs of calving:
• Increase in udder size (the cow ‘bags up’)
• Slackening of tail head muscles
• Walk less easily
• Seeks isolation from the herd
Labour lasts 3-8 hours given there are no complications and she may lose around
60kg (40kg calf, 20kg fluids and tissue). Lactation commences after calving.
13. The Oestrus Cycle
The cycle typically lasts for 21 days. During the cycle, the cow stands to be mated
by the bull (bulling). Heat lasts 3-30 hours with ovulation occurring 2-22 hours
14. Calving Index
The theoretical target for calving index is 365 days (1 calf per year), however in the
UK the average is closer to 420 days. This greater than average length results in a
drift in the calving pattern except for herds who calve all year round. If the farmer
wishes to meet the theoretical target, the cow should be coming back in-calf in the
12th week of lactation. However, this is difficult to achieve because at the same
time the cow will be producing a high milk yield and losing weight.
15. Factors Affecting Calving Index
Onset of Oestrus
After calving, the cow will have 1 or 2 irregular silent heats but should have regular
cycles 4 weeks after calving. If after 45 days the cow has not shown heat,
veterinary examination is advised. Reasons for a delay in onset of oestrus…
• High yielding cows
• Underfeeding or excess loss of body condition
• Health problems such as difficulty calving (dystocia), retained placenta, ovarian
The majority of matings in UK dairy herds are carried out by artificial insemination.
16. Oestrus Detection
Physical Signs Behavioural Signs
Rubbed tail and/or dirty flanks because she has been mounted
by a bull
Swollen vagina Restless
Bulling string Decrease in appetite
Blood or mucous on her tail Stand to be ridden by other cows with no attempts of escape
Cows mounting other cows from the wrong end
Chin resting and licking
17. Oestrus Detection
• Observation: The cow should be observed at least three times per day for at least
20 minutes each time, especially in the evening because it will be many hours
before the cows are milked again.
• Record Keeping: a farmer should therefore know when a cow is coming into
oestrus so he can see if they are standing to be mounted.
• Presence of Bull: The bull pen should be situated close to the cow yard so when
on heat, cows will hand around the bull pen. But, many farms don’t have bulls
and most mating is done by artificial insemination (AI)
• Heat Mount Detector or Tail Paint: This is placed on the back of the cow. When
the cow is mounted, the paint capsule bursts and the heat mount detector
changes colour. However, if a cow rubs against a wall, this could trigger the
detector of rub off the paint.
18. Oestrus Detection
• Pedometer/Activity Meter: The activity of the cow increases around oestrus and
this can therefore be measured
• Control Oestrus: A progesterone releasing intravaginal device (PRID) or
prostaglandin F2α can be used to bring the cow on heat at a given time and
served after a fixed time. (Not to be used as a remedy for poor management)
Cow wearing a pedometer.
19. Pregnancy Rate
The pregnancy rate is the number of cows pregnant as a proportion of the number
served. The target is 94%. If lower, there are various reasons…
Crude Protein in Diet
Timing of Service
Calving to Service Interval
20. • Weight Loss it is important to remember the cow farmer is often trying to get
the cow in calf when she is in negative energy balance, but the cow should not be
losing more than 0.5kg/day.
• Crude Protein in Diet aim should be 12-16% crude protein in the overall diet.
• Timing of Service the optimum time to serve the cow is mid-late oestrus (12-
15 hours before ovulation). The general rule is if a cow is seen bulling in the
morning, serve her in the afternoon – if bulling in the afternoon, serve the next
• Mineral Deficiencies reduced fertility can be caused by deficiencies in
phosphorus, manganese, copper and iodine. It is important to get the right
• Calving to Service Interval after calving, if there is a longer interval before the
first serving the cow, the conception rate is likely to be higher but for the 365 day
calving interval, start serving the cow from day 42 post calving.
21. Feeding the Dairy Cow
Silage:- In the winter, the cows are fed silage which is grass that has been
preserved by controlled anaerobic fermentation. Afterwards, it is compacted in a
pit/clamp and covered with a plastic sheet to keep air out. In anaerobic conditions,
lactobacilli ferment the water soluble carbohydrate in the crop to produce volatile
fatty acids (VFAs) and lactic acids causing a rapid fall in pH preventing further
breakdown of carbohydrates. If air was present or there was a low level of water
the lactic acid would then
broken down into butyric acid and this is a sign of
poor fermentation. It would increase the pH
further losses of carbohydrates, a reduced quality
with a lower feeding value.
Dry Matter (DM): 250 g/kg
Crude Protein (CP): 170 g/kg DM
22. Previously, a self-feed system was used for silage but due to the increase in the size
of dairy herds and silage herds being located away from winter housing. Now, dairy
cows are more commonly fed silage using the barrier feeding method – the silage
is brought to the cows using a feeder wagon and the cows reach through the
barrier to access the feed.
23. Barrier Feeding Method
Easier to monitor how much the herd is eating Can be expensive (labour, machinery, shed
Allows group feeding – create own groups
depending on stage of lactation and milk yield
to feed different amounts
High labour requirement
Other feeds can be fed at the same time Suitable machinery is expensive and costly to
fix if it breaks down
Chopped silage can be fed, increasing the
intake by the cows
Shed space is often taken up by the feed
passage leaving less room for the cows
24. Feeding the Dairy Cow
Bulky feeds (forage) are unable to provide all the protein, energy and minerals the
cows needs, particularly in early lactation, in high yielders and in poor quality
forage. So, the diet needs to be supplemented with concentrates. Concentrates can
be high in energy, protein or minerals and some can be high in two of these.
- To provide energy: barley, wheat, sugar beet pulp, maize grains
- To provide protein: soya-bean meal, rapseed meal
- Vitamin/mineral mix
In a high energy concentrate…
DM: 860 g/kg
Metabolizable Energy (ME): 13.5 MJ/kg DM
CP: 210 g/kg DM
The amount of concentrate fed to the cow depends on the milk yield and the
quality of the forage. But, too much concentrate can lead to acidosis so only offer
small amounts of concentrate at a time.
25. Concentrate Feeding: Methods
In-parlour feeders: The cows eat concentrates during the milking process
Cows are fed individually and can be
rationed due to yield or stage of lactation
Most farmers milk their cows twice a day
so they can only be fed concentrate twice
Each cow has its own feeder so cannot be
Each feed is limited to 5-5.5kg of
concentrate due to the risk of acidosis
and the time would have to spend in
parlour. This slows the milking process
26. Concentrate Feeding: Methods
Out of Parlour Feeding: the concentrate dispensers are stalls in the winter housing.
When the cow enters the stall, the transponder around their neck or leg is read by
a computer and the correct allowance of concentrate is given during a 6 hour
Cows can be rationed individually One feeder is required per 20 cows so
they can be costly to install
Acidosis is avoided because only 0.25 of
the daily allowance is given during a 6
Bullying may occur
27. Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
This is when a mix of all dietary ingredients are fed together, for example silage,
concentrate, barley, root crops. A mixed wagon is required to mix and distribute
the diet and the diet will be fed on a barrier feeding system.
The cows eat little and often so there is
less chance of developing acidosis
Need to be grouped according to stage of
lactation to avoid them becoming overfat
Low cost feeds can be used May be reluctant to enter the parlour if
concentrates aren’t fed
The farmer has control over the
Mixer wagons are costly
No in parlour feeding required
The cows can be group fed
28. Grazing Management
The average grass production on a lowland dairy farm is 10-13 tonnes of
DA/ha/year. The peak production is in May but at this time, production is higher
than requirement. So, some grass is conserved as silage and fed in winter. Grazed
grass is relatively cheap food but it must be used efficiently. Letting the cows have
too much grass will result it in becoming mature as it will be wasted. Too little grass
will result in increased intake and therefore reduced milk yield.
Types of grazing systems…
• Rotational Grazing
• Continuous Grazing
29. Strip Grazing
• The cows have access to a limited area of fresh grass within the field each day,
good for conserving grass for silage
• They are kept off the fresh grass by an electric fence. The fence should be moved
1 – 2 times per day (in the morning and in the evening)
• Efficient, flexible system
• Low cost
• Frequent decisions made by a skilled person is required (e.g. how much grass to
• High labour requirement (move the fence)
• Risk of poaching especially in wet weather as all the cattle are concentrated into
a small area on the fresh grass
30. Paddock Grazing
Each paddock is grazed for a set period of time before being moved onto the next
period (water troughs in each paddock).
28x1 day paddocks each paddock is grazed for one day then allowed to re-grow
for 27 days.
4x7 day paddocks the cows graze one paddock for 7 days then move to the next
paddock for 7 days
• Farmer has good control over the quantity and quality of herbage to offer the
• Low labour requirements
• High initial cost due to fencing, cow tracks and water supply
• Low flexibility due to small paddocks so hard to incorporate into farm rotation
31. Wye College System
This system is a combination of the 4x7 day paddock system and strip grazing. An
electric fence is used within the paddocks to allow the cows one seventh of the
paddock each day.
• Easy to operate
• Lower cost than other paddock grazing systems
• Is significant costs associated with it (e.g. water troughs, fences)
32. Continuous Grazing (Set Stocking)
The cows graze over the whole area for the entire grazing system (can have a day
and night grazing area)
• More difficult to control the amount of grass on offer. If the cows are overstocked
so there isn’t enough grass, the milk yield will decline. If the cows are
understocked, the herbage will mature and the quality of the grazing will decline.
• Cows can be turned out sooner as the grass needs to be grazed in spring before it
gets too long. Fertiliser should be applied monthly. Grass yield and quality decline
in late season so the grazing area must be increased by using silage aftermaths
• Low cost
• Reduced risk of poaching as more area available for cattle but this means it takes
longer to collect cows for milking
• Easy to manage system
• Grass utilisation is less efficient. Harder to control quality of grass
33. Zero Grazing
Under this system, the cows are housed or they can be kept in a ‘feedlot’ or on a
sacrifice area of grazing. The grass is cut and transported and fed fresh to cows in
summer. Silage is fed during the winter.
• Efficient use is made of the grassland because the cows can’t select which areas
to eat, so more of the grass is utilised
• The cattle aren’t grazing so there is a reduced risk of poaching but tractors still go
in and out of fields so gateways may become poached
• Grass from inaccessible fields can be used
• High labour and machinery costs (cut and cart grass)
• Increased slurry as the cattle are housed for 12 months
34. Conserved Forage Systems
On some farms, the dairy cows are not fed fresh grass and do not graze, instead,
they will be fed silage or TMR throughout the year. Some farms only do this with
high yielding cows but let low yielding cows graze.
35. How to Choose a System
• The advantages and disadvantages and how they suit a farm
• Layout of the farm (e.g. close to roads, closeness of fields to parlours)
• Soil type (heavy soils are better for continuous grazing)
• Farmer preference
36. Main Welfare Problems in Dairy Production
• Hunger or acute metabolic diseases due to an imbalance between nutrient
supply and demand
• Chronic discomfort through bad housing, loss of condition
• Chronic pain or restricted movement due to distortion of body shape, bad
housing and management
37. Welfare Codes
There are FIVE FREEDOMS (updated by The Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1993)
• Freedoms from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
• Freedom from discomfort
• Freedom from injury, pain and disease
• Freedom to express normal behaviour
• Freedom from fear and distress
38. Freedom from Thirst, Hunger & Malnutrition
The amount of water needed by a cow is dependent on the milk yield, the water
content of the feed and the environment. Dry cows can drink up to 14 litres/day
whereas lactating cows can drink up to 65 litres/day so there must be enough
space at troughs and a good supply of water to meet the cows needs.
Milk is 87% water so if the cows are thirsty, there will be a decreased milk yield.
This leads to a reduced DMI which also means a further reduction in yield.
Water is supplied ad libitum (the cows drink the water voluntarily) so there needs
to be sufficient water troughs and must be carefully distributed seeing as cows are
reluctant to walk over 250m for water.
An adequate diet should also be provided.
39. Acidosis – What Is It?
Acidosis is a metabolic disease.
The normal rumen pH is around 6.0 and is usually controlled by buffers in saliva
and the level of lactic acid in the rumen is low.
If the pH falls, lactic acid bacteria can grow and a high starch diet will encourage
the production of lactic acid. Also a high starch/low fibre diet leads to a reduction
in rumination and saliva production. This means that the animal is less able to
belch and has a reduced buffering capacity. The low pH in the rumen causes water
to move from the blood to the rumen via osmosis and the animal becomes
dehydrated. As the animal attempts to buffer the low pH in the rumen,
bicarbonate moves from the blood to the rumen and lactic acid is absorbed into
the blood. This causes acidosis. The lactic acid corrodes the rumen wall allowing
the invasion of fungal and bacterial infections.
40. Acidosis – Symptom & Effects
• Elevated heart rate
• Decreased appetite
• Liver disease
• Reduced feed intake
• Poor body condition
• Weight loss
• High pulse and respiratory rate
There is a decrease in the amount of acetate produced leading
to a reduction in the fat content of the cow’s milk
41. Acidosis – Treatment & Prevention
• There is no specific treatment due to the disease not being detected at the time
of depressed ruminal pH
• Decreased starch intake
• Increased silage intake
• Little and often amounts of concentrate
• Feed a concentrate that is high in digestible fibre (e.g. sugar beet pulp)
42. Ketosis – What Is It?
Ketosis (acetonaemia) occurs when there is an energy deficit in the diet and the
cow metabolises its fat too quickly. It is most likely to occur in early lactation.
The body fat is broken down and ketones are produced which then accumulate in
the liver. Beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is also produced when the body fat is broken
N.B. measuring BHB in the blood can indicate the nutritional status of the cow.
43. Ketosis - Symptoms
• Reduction in milk yield
• Reduced appetite
• Loss of weight and condition
• Smell of acetone on the breath/in the milk
• In severe cases, liver failure or Fatty Liver Syndrome may occur due to the
accumulation of the mobilised fat in the liver
44. Ketosis - Prevention
• Condition Score avoid having over-fat and over-thin cows. When dried off, the
cow’s condition should be 3.0. Over-fat cows are more likely to develop ketosis
because they have lower appetites and must mobilise more fat in early lactation.
• Correct Rationing the diet should contain sufficient energy for the level of
production of the cow. The lactation diet should be introduced to the cows for
the last two weeks before calving and during lactation the diet should be
palatable. Giving the cow adequate feeding space will encourage intake.
• Prevent Other Diseases other diseases can result in a reduced feed intake, so
the cow would have to mobilise body fat leading to ketosis.
45. Milk Fever (Hypocalcaemia)
This normally occurs around calving. When lactation commences, there is a sudden
demand for calcium which can lead to low levels in the blood. Calcium is required
for muscle contraction.
• Difficulty walking
• Becomes recumbent
• Rumination ceases
• Animal becomes unconscious
• Death is normally due to cardiac and
• Diets fed to dry cows should contain low
levels of calcium, promoting an increase in
the number of calcium receptors in the
small intestine. So, in early lactation when
the cow has high calcium requirements,
the amount of calcium should be
increased and a large amount will be
absorbed due to the increased number of
46. Grass Staggers (Hypomagnesaemia)
This occurs due to low magnesium levels in the blood. Most cases occur on lush
spring pasture, although it can also occur in September. There is less magnesium in
spring grass than in silage.
• Rapid death
• There is not an available store of
magnesium in the body but it can be
administered to the cow daily:- treating
the pasture, adding magnesium to water,
providing mineral licks, using boluses.
• Buffer feeding of silage
• Improve the pasture by including clover in
the sward and avoid early use of
potassium fertiliser (makes the
magnesium less available)
• Do not apply slurry to the grazing in early
47. Freedom from Discomfort - Housing
The average cow weights 700kg and spends 7-14 hours of the day lying down.
When a cow lies down, she lies down front first and gets up front last.
There are three types of housing…
• Loose Housing
48. Byres and Loose Housing
The cows are chained in stalls and milked in the stalls. This is rare in the UK
• Loose Housing
The cows will be bedded with straw and mucked out every 4-6 weeks. There will
also be an area of bare concrete to encourage hoof wear - Water and feed
troughs should be located in this area.
Individual stalls which the cows are free to enter and exit at their own will.
Length Width Kerbs
• 2.3-2.4 metres if the stall
is not a solid wall
• A lunge area if the stall
has a solid front – an extra
0.25 – 0.30 metres
• 1.2 metres between
• Too high strain on the
cows legs leading to
• Too low bedding could
with slurry from the
passageways and this can
lead to mastitis.
• The slurry can soften
hooves and horns due to
the protein digesting
• 15-20 cm (lower if using
50. Types of Partition
Newton Rigg Dorsdunn
Cows prefer cantilever type
The vertical bars can cause damage
to the hocks and pelvis from
rubbing when they lie down
51. • Passageway
Wide enough to let cows pass one another. Minimum width is 3.0m, ideal width
is 3.6m. A loafing area should also be provided to encourage hoof wear.
• Neck Rail
To prevent the cow standing too far forward in cubicle so they don’t dung on the
bed – they should also be able to have all four feet in the stall. If the neck rail is
too close to the passageway, the cow will stand with only her front feet in the
stall and this can contribute to lameness. It should be positioned 1.6-1.9 m from
the rear kerb and 1.2-1.3 m above the bedded surface
2-3% so the cow can lie uphill
At lease one cubicle per cow should be allowed but it is better to have an extra 5%
52. • Temperature
The lower critical temperature (LCT) is the lower limit of the thermoneutral zone.
Below the LCT, the cow has to increase heat production by shivering. In a Friesian,
the LCT is -20 but wind chill must also be taken into account. So, winter housing
must be designed to reduce the effects of wind chill and rain rather than the
effect of the cold. The limit of optimal productivity is -5. Below this, local chilling
of the udder occurs – blood flow to the udder is reduced so the udder receives
less nutrients, decreasing milk production. So, the aim needs to be to reduce heat
loss through convection and conduction
To keeps teats, udders and flanks clean and reduce heat loss through conduction.
E.g. mattresses, chopped straw, sawdust
53. Freedom from Injury, Pain & Disease
What are cows at risk of?
54. Lameness - Causes
Incorrect Feeding Poor Walking Surface Housing Design Other Factors
• Acidosis (directly related to
• Protein: the overall crude
protein content of the diet
should be less than 18%
but the effect on cow’s feet
is not clear cut
• Zinc: zinc contributes to
the formation of keratin
which gives the horn its
rigidity. A deficiency can
therefore lead to lameness
• Can lead to bruising and
puncturing of the sole
which gives an entry for
• Examples include pitted
concrete and sharp flint
• Cubicles need to be
designed to encourage the
cow to lie down
• Standing for long periods
can cause lameness
• If cows are forced to stand
in the passageway, in wet
conditions, this can cause
the horn to soften
• Slurry contains protein-
digestive enzymes so need
to be kept clean
• Cows need loafing areas to
wear hooves down
• Genetics – black hooves
are harder than white
55. Lameness- Prevention
• Foot trimming
• Foot baths, using zinc sulphate or formalin (can also use foam baths)
• Antibiotics can be used for some infectious causes
• Attention should be paid to slurry hygiene, cubicle design and husbandry
56. Mastitis – What is it?
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland caused by an infectious agent
(usually bacteria). It can be diagnosed by determining whether there is a high
somatic cell count in the milk (which would be unfit for human consumption).
Contagious Mastitis spreads from cow to cow (e.g. through the milking
Environmental Mastitis caused by bacteria present in the environment and is
more difficult to control
Summer Mastitis transmitted by flies (usually in July-September)
57. Mastitis - Symptoms
• Sub-clinical symptoms which can only be detected by milk cell count
• Severe clinical infection recognised by clots in the milk, reduced milk yield, heart
and udder swelling
58. Mastitis – Prevention: The Five Point Plan
• Hygienic Teat Management
- Good udder preparation before milking.
- Milk infected cows at the end of the milking session
- Clean the unit after use
- Teat disinfection after milking
- Fly control through using insecticide and hygiene control
• Prompt Identification and Treatment of Cases
Use a strip cup pre-milking for early detection and treatment
• Dry Cow Management and Therapy
Using intra-mammary antibiotics when the cows are dried off
• Culling Chronically Infected Cows & Persistent Offenders
• Regular Milking Machine and Maintenance
Ensure the equipment is functioning properly
59. Infectious Disease
Prevention of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, BVD (Bovine Virus Diarrhoea)
can be down to good management:
• Vaccination policy
• Housing design
• Clear buying-in policy
60. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
This is most important when the cow is on heat/bulling. The farmer must be able
to detect when the cows are on heat to be able to artificially inseminate them at
the correct time. Observation and record keeping is key – the cow will stand to be
mounted by another cow so needs sufficient space such as a loafing area.
61. Freedom From Fear
It is important to avoid fear.
The let down of the milk in the udder is controlled by oxytocin and the production
of oxytocin can be stimulated by the calf nudging the udder or by the sight and
sound of the milking parlour.
However, if the cow is afraid, adrenaline is produced which prepares her for ‘fight
or flight’ so the cow doesn’t let her milk down.
62. Calf Rearing – The Newborn Calf
The calving area should be clean, dry and cleaned out between cows.
When the calf is born, mucus should be removed from the nose and mouth and
the tongue should be pulled forward. The naval cord should be dipped/sprayed
with iodine to prevent bacteria entering and causing navel ill.
The calf should suck from the cow to receive colostrum and removed 24-48 hours
after being born. If it is removed later, there will be a strong bond to break.
63. Colostrum – The First Milk
Colostrum is high in fat and antibody content. It is required by the calf for…
1. Passive Immunity there is no transplacental transfer of antibodies, so the
antibodies in colostrum transfer across the stomach wall into the calf’s blood
upon ingestion of colostrum.
2. Energy the fat and lactose in colostrum provide energy
3. Laxative helps to remove the meconium (first faeces)
The cow should be fed colostrum for a day or
two after being removed from its mother
64. Birthweight and Weaning
The birthweight of a calf is around 40-45 kg depending on the breed and sex.
Calves sired by beef bulls will be heavier for example.
The dairy-bred calf is fed on whole milk or milk replacer until weaning.
When can the dairy calf be weaned?
• Weight: 60kg
• Age: 5-8 weeks
• Eating 1kg/day dry food
• OR gaining 0.5kg/day
65. Calf Digestion
Initially, the rumen is very
small and non-functional (it
is less than two litres in size,
compared to 140 litres in a
fully grown cow)
66. Calf Digestion
An enzyme called rennin causes the milk to clot – the clot contains casein and fat.
The clot is digested in the abomasum and the whey (rest of the milk) passes into
the small intestine to be digested.
Microbial digestion occurs here in the adult bovine. In the calf, the micro-
organisms are picked up from the environment and they colonise the rumen. As
solid food intake increases, this stimulates rumen fermentation and
• Oesophageal Groove
This is a groove in the rumen wall that diverts milk past the rumen and into the
abomasum. When the calf sucks from the cow, there is a reflex action so the
muscle above the groove contracts, transforming the groove into a pipe directing
milk into the abomasum to be chemically digested.
68. Individual Penning & Bucket Feeding
Can rear small uneven groups Fed at a fixed time so labour must be available
Good supervision – easy to monitor for signs of
High labour requirement (feeding, cleaning
No competition or bullying
Reduced cost (no machines)
70. Group Housing & Teat Feeding
Less labour (more calves per stockperson) Cost of machine and alternatives if it breaks down
Reduced penning costs and specialist buildings can
Need a good stockperson to be able to detect
illness or behavioural changes in one calf amongst
Social interaction Difficult to monitor milk and creep feed intake of
Natural sucking on teats triggers reflex action of
Increased risk of disease transfer through sharing
teats and using the same equipment
71. Calf Starter Ration
The starter ration fed to the calf is usually pellets or a coarse mix. It should be
palatable and highly digestible in order to encourage the intake of dry feed by the
calf. It should be fed from 1-2 weeks of age.
The calf can be fed hay or good quality, clean barley straw. Older calves can be fed
silage. Roughage encourages rumen development and rumination.
• If stressed, more predisposed to it (weaning, marketing, transportation)
• After a lungworm infection
• Chesty cough, increased breathing rate
• Clear discharge from the eyes and nose
• Slightly red eyes
• Loss of appetite
• Stand with its head down
• Arched back
73. Pneumonia - Prevention
If the bedding is wet, micro-organisms will increase. The bedding area should be
sloped for good drainage. Good ventilation, low humidity, no over-stocking
• Avoid stress
No mixing groups of calves. Better to not buy calves through markets.
74. Calf Scours (Diarrhoea)
Can occur due to digestive upsets of viruses and is commonly seen in the first three
weeks of life.
• White, yellow or green diarrhoea (can be watery)
• Dehydrated death
75. Calf Scours - Prevention
• Correct Feeding
Not too much milk, no sudden dietary changes
• Colostrum at Birth
To receive passive immunity to help protect against scours
• Housing Design
Warm, dry bedded area. Well ventilated, no draught. “All in all out” system so
cleaning and disinfecting can take place between groups of calves
Administered to mother in late pregnancy for passive immunity
76. Calf Welfare
Some basic guidelines states by the ‘Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of
Livestock – Cattle’
• Houses should be inspected at least twice a day
• The calves should receive colostrum within the first 6 hours of life and fed twice a
• Individual pens can only be used for calves up to 8 weeks of age and should have
one perforated wall
• Artificial light should be provided between 9am and 5pm if there is no natural
• Calves shouldn’t be transported if less than a week old and if the navel has not
The Burdizzo can be used
without anaesthetic on calves
under 2 months of age
The rubber ring method can
be used without anaesthetic
on calves under 7 days of age
If the cow is older than 2
months, a vet must perform
78. Disbudding and Dehorning
Disbudding is the removal of the horn buds before any of the horn material can be
seen (before the calf is 2 months old). The preferred method is to use local
anaesthetic and a hot iron
It is preferable to disbud calves rather than waiting till they are older to dehorn
them. Horned and non-horned cattle should not be kept together so older cattle
may need to be dehorned at this point. It is done under local anaesthetic using a
(some cattle are genetically hornless – polled)
79. Supernumerary Teats
Some calves are born with more than 4 teats. These extra teats can be removed
under local anaesthetic using clean, sharp scissors before the cow is 3 months of
age. After this, the operation should be performed by a vet.