By Paul Mambo and Phillip Achieng
As the adage goals, today’s calf is tomorrow’s calf and happy cow is a happy farmer. To get happy-land, it is then important to start right. The calving process starts at insemination. To assure a healthy calf, select a bull with good genetic qualities and traits; this will assure a highly genetic calf.
The next step is to make sure your cow and future calf is healthy. Stock up on healthy feeds and folder and good, well-ventilated cow shed with plenty of clean drinking water. This environment keeps the in-calf cow calm, comfortable allowing the in udder to fully develop for optimum milk production and right weight gain to support the pregnancy and birth.
Two months to deliver, move the in-calf cow to its own maternity pen. This is known as the steaming period, all the stress are removed from the cow in preparation for delivery therefore avoiding negative energy which if not managed well can lead to death of both the cow and calf or milk fever which is equally fatal.
Now, when the cow is fast approaching delivery, ensure that the maternity bay is warm, comfortable, and well-ventilated and has plenty of clean water.
Anytime now, the cow will go into labor. Make sure there is someone constantly watching over her. Usually, the cow will give birth on its own but if you notice any difficulties summon your veterinarian as fast as possible.
As soon as the calf is born, wipe out the mucus from its nostrils to facilitate breathing. The mother will be at this time being busy licking the mucus from the rest of the calf’s body. As soon as you are done with wiping the mucus weigh the calf. A healthy calf should weigh between 35-45 kgs.
At this point, gather the first milk, usually known as colostrum, from the mother and feed the calf. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that boost the immunity of the calf. As the quality of the colostrum depreciates rapidly within the 3-4 hours, it is important that the calf is fed on that milk within her first hour of life. In total, the calf should consume 20% of its birth weight in 24 hours translating to between 6-8 kilos in the first 24 hours of life.
You can move the calf to its pen that is line with warm and comfortable straw bed to assure her comfort.
The calf will be on an exclusive milk diet for the next 3-4 days. Feed her 3-4 times a day depending on your milking schedule.
On the fourth day, start feeding your calf on grain or calf pellets gradually to avoid acidosis. This planned gradual feeding helps in the formation of rumen.
As the calf develops, introduce quality daily pellets and clean water. The calf in its health state should be able to consume 2 kilograms of calf pellets daily between the first and the second month of life.
As weaning is not entirely dependent on age, it can start once the calf has gained twice its birth weight that is between 70-90 kilograms.
Begin by withdrawing milk gradually as you introduce high quality balanced feeds and folder. You can also change from calf to a weaner pellet.
Happy health Heifer.
At between 7-9 months, your heifer is now ready to be moved from the calf pen and will be ready for insemination once it has achieved 60-50% of its body weight.
Well take care of; your happy heifer is ready to start milking making you a happy farmer.