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Calves & Heifers

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, milk or replacer feeding and disease control along with proper bedding, sanitation and ventilation.

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This article is part one in a two-part series on pre-weaned heifer nutrition. Look for part two in a future issue.

What is a quality calf-feeding program? For too long, the ideal calf-feeding program has been viewed as one that was low-cost and weaned calves as soon as possible.

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With increased emphasis on early life feeding programs for replacement heifers, the need for more information regarding successful weaning management is clear. More and more dairy farmers are feeding double, and sometimes nearly triple, the milk feeding rates that had been recommended for decades prior.

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In 2000 and 2004, Wright Place Farm in Clinton, Maine, decided to grow by buying neighboring farms. In 2012, Brian Wright challenged his brother Steve and uncle Ray, who co-own the 800-cow, 1,800-acre dairy with him, to increase production by improving the herd and facilities instead of buying another farm.

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Many calves show subtle signs of sickness before it becomes clinical. The “look, listen, smell and feel” strategy will help you identify those calves much earlier and can be used in all calf-raising systems. The key is to closely observe calves in the moment without making assumptions or overlooking small signs.

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Every dairy farm is different. But when it comes to calf programs, there may be more similarities than what might be expected. At the 2018 Leading Dairy Producers Conference, hosted by Purina Animal Nutrition, three dairy farmers shared what makes their individual calf programs successful.

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Scours is the primary cause of calf death before weaning. It can be a devastating disease infecting many animals, resulting in expensive treatments and negatively impacting the animal’s long-term health and performance.

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