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Tips and tricks for raising calves

Annaliese Wegner for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 September 2019

Raising healthy, strong calves is no easy task. It takes time, patience, good nutrition and plenty of knowledge. I asked my followers on social media what their favorite tips and tricks were when it came to caring for calves.

Maybe you know it all and have tried it all, but I hope you will find something new and helpful.




  • Place a high priority on feeding 4 quarts of colostrum in the first few hours of life.
  • Colostrum quality is key. Consider investing in a Brix refractometer to test colostrum.


  • If you dehorn with paste, try trimming back the hair with a men’s facial hair trimmer instead of a scissors.
  • Wear a milking glove and apply paste with your finger.


  • Consistency and cleanliness are key. Make sure all employees are on the same page.
  • Use a scale to measure milk replacer and eliminate human error.
  • Place a dog dish or the bottom part of an ice cream pail in grain buckets for newer calves. This allows them to access grain without having to stick their head into a deep pail and encourages them to eat grain. It also prevents your calf feeders from overfeeding. 
  • Be patient.
  • Put yogurt in the milk. Yogurt contains lactic acid bacteria and can help reduce the pH of a calf’s stomach to the point where E.coli cannot grow. 
  • Consider feeding a pro/prebiotic for a healthy gut.
  • Empty water pails in a larger bucket and/or tub instead of on the ground to reduce the fly population in the summer and ice patches in the winter. 
  • Keep grain pails inside the hutch to prevent it from getting wet.
  • In the winter, maintain milk temperature by placing a heavy-duty sleeping bag over bottles while transporting to the hutches.
  • Use different colored clothes pins on hutches to identify treated calves, weaned calves, calves that didn’t finish milk, etc. 


  • Keep hutches cool in the hot months by putting a car sun reflector and/or sunshade on top of the hutch.
  • Keep hutches warm in the winter by bedding with sawdust and straw. You can also buy (or make) doors for the front of the hutches.  end mark

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PHOTO: Getty Images.

Annaliese Wegner
  • Annaliese Wegner

  • Dairy Producer
  • Ettrick, Wisconsin
  • Email Annaliese Wegner