A calf is the younger one of a cow cattle probably from the first day of birth to four months. The calf should be fed on colostrum within the first six hours of birth.
Importance of colostrum to the calf
- Colostrum is highly digestible by the calf.
- Colostrum contains high amount of nutrients that help in the faster of the calf and prevent it from diseases.
- It is palatable.
- Has antibodies that enable the calf to resist early disease infection.
- Has a high and good mechanism that helps in cleaning calf’s bowels.
Preparation of artificial colostrum
- A fresh egg is mixed in 1 litre of water after which adds these other ingredients which should be mixed properly till the colostrum is ready for use.
- Another half litre of warm water.
- One teaspoonful of cod liver oil.
- One teaspoonful of castor oil.
- The calf should be fed on the colostrum thrice a day for the first four days and thereafter the castor oil should be omitted in the mixture when the calf starts passing normal dung.
Methods of calf rearing
In calf rearing we have the main two methods of calf rearing which are:
- Natural calf rearing method.
- Artificial calf rearing method.
Natural calf rearing method
In natural method of rearing, the calf is let to suckle directly from its mother.
Advantages of natural calf rearing method
- Milk from the cattle cow is free from contamination.
- The milk is in the required temperature.
- Contains all the nutrients the calf needs for its growth.
Disadvantages of natural calf rearing method
- The farmer can milk all the milk from the cow leaving nothing for the calf.
- Cows which are stimulated by the calves will not let down the milk in the absence of the calf.
Artificial/bucket calf rearing method
A calf is separated from its mother as soon it is given birth to. The calf is then taken to another calf pen where it is taught on how to feed on milk through a bottle or using a bucket.
Rearing replacement stock
Replacement stock are heifers and young bulls which should leave the group of younger calves and join the other grown mature livestock.
Calves should be housed to protect them from diverse environment conditions as high temperatures, theft and rainy seasons.
Types of calf pens
There are different types of calf pens a farmer should consider building for his calves. The type of a calf pen should build for the farmer depends on the type and space in the farm, the cost of materials to build the calf pen and the number of calves the farmer has in the farm.
These are some types of calf pens a farmer should consider building:
- Raised permanent pens
The calf is raised to a one meter height from the ground with a bit slant floor to allow proper passage of urine, water and dug to designated place to keep the calves In a clean and healthier calf pen.
- Permanent calf pen built with concrete walls
The calf pen should measure 2.0 meters long and 1.0 on width. The floor is slanted to allow drainage to take place in an easy proper way.
- Mobile calf pens
This is a calf pen that can be easily carried from one place to the other. This type of calf pen should be roofed to avoid the calves from being rained on and from hot seasoned days.
Requirements for a standard calf pen
- Proper ventilation
The calf pen should be built to allow air enter into it and easily move out from it.
The farmer should always clean the calf pens to avoid the calves from being contaminated by diseases like foot rot.
- Adequate space
The calf pen should be spacious to freely allow animals to move and perform activities like feeding and taking water.
- Proper drainage
The floor of the calf pen should be built in such a way that it is slant to allow proper drainage of urine and water to avoid infections and cold.
- Dryness and warmth
Saw dusts can be place on the floor of the calf pen to help absorb water and keep the calf pen dry. Once the saw dust gets wet, the farmer should remove it and replace them with dry ones.
- Draught free
Strong walls should be built to prevent wind from entering the pen.
Calf management practices
- Parasite control
The calf pen should be cleaned and sprayed. Also the calves should be sprayed on a regular basis probably at every weekend.
- Disease control
The calves should be vaccinated against diseases as black quarter and brucellosis that is found in heifers.
Castration in young bulls is practiced to: control inbreeding; mating between mother and bull, or bull and sister cow, control breeding diseases, control fat distribution and to make steers grow and fatten faster.
This can be done by placing ear tags in their ears or painting them at their backs. This is done mainly to keep proper animal record of each calve.
- Extra teats removal
Extra teats should be carefully removed from heifers having six or eight teats. A heifer should have a maximum of four teats.
Dehorning is the trimming of long horn in calves to reduce chances of causing injuries to other calves and to the farmer.