Dear Daktari, I am a dairy farmer and I keep the local breeds but recently started keeping dairy crosses to increase milk production and income. I bought two pregnant cows which are about to deliver. I need info on taking care of calves.
Thank you Mwadime for writing to us. Calf rearing is a delicate process because we are dealing with a delicate being going through a very important phase in its life. How we treat the small calf will affect its growth and productivity. I am assuming that your animals will deliver without any problems. To achieve that, it helps to know the signs of birth, get the dates and put your vet on standby. After successful birth ensure the calf gets enough first milk (colostrum) as this will contribute to its immunity and hence help it make through neonatal diseases.
Calves are prone to diarrheal diseases and most of them are caused by poor handling by the farmhands and a dirty mother’s udder. To prevent this, the mother’s udder and teats should be cleaned before the calf suckles or it is milked. The farmhands should also maintain cleanliness while milking or feed the calf. Wear clean clothes and boots when handling calves, do not share farm equipment between adult animals and calves, as this can spread diseases. Maintain a close watch on the calves for any clinical diseases. Engage your vet for any vaccinations. Note that milk, feeding troughs, water and milk buckets (for calves that are bucket feed), are sources of pathogens and they should be routinely washed and sanitised. If you have several calves do not share the buckets across.