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Calf rearing: Why you should act fast in the ‘golden hour’

FRS discusses the ‘golden hour’ when calving rearing.

As many farms are preparing for or are in the early stages of calving, now is the time to refresh on calf health.

With workload expected to increase, it is important to know what to do and take action once the calf is born.

Farmers should take this time to familiarise themselves once again with best practice and good herd management.

Extra help during the busy spring is not uncommon in farms.

Often family members or external workers may participate in calf rearing.

Farmers should take time to educate any other farmworkers on their health programme and what to do after calving.

The health of the calf in the first hour is crucial as it directly impacts to the long-term health of the animal.

It is essential to identify sick animals as soon as possible. For farmers and farmworkers, this care starts at the animal’s birth.

The ‘golden hour’

The first hour after birth is often called the ‘golden hour’.

From the moment of birth, the farmer/farmworker should assess the calf.

Check for breathing and practice good navel management. The navel, mouth and nostrils are prone to picking up infections from the calving environment.

It is recommended that the calf be moved to a freshly bedded pen.

Also, Teagasc lists that the calf should be lifting their head and sitting up with their legs tucked under the body 5 minutes post-birth, attempting to stand within 20 minutes, and standing spontaneously within the first hour.

Colostrum

Colostrum plays a key role in calf health. It is the first milk of the cow post-birth and is vitamin and nutrient-rich.

Colostrum supports growth and optimises welfare as it has a high number of antibodies and protects against disease.

Calves should receive an adequate amount of colostrum within the first two hours of life.

The amount depends on the weight and breed of each calf, but as a rule, it should be 8.5% of its total body weight in colostrum.

Using this information, if a calf weighs 35kg, they should receive 3l of colostrum, and a calf weighing 45kg should receive 4l.

Where farmers/farmworkers do not believe the calf sucked the correct amount from the cow, they will have to bottle feed the calf.

You can collect colostrum from the cow, or farmers can freeze good quality colostrum in case of an emergency.

Illnesses

If calves do not receive the correct amount of colostrum within the timeframe, their immune system can become compromised and are more suspectable to contracting an infection.

With all animal illnesses, prevention is better than cure.

Acting fast in the ‘golden hour’ can help rear strong and healthy calves.

However, contact your local vet should you feel the calf or cow needs medical attention.

Calf rearing roles this spring

Are you interested in helping rearing calves this spring? FRS Farm Relief are currently recruiting for calf rearers.

These positions are suitable for those looking for flexible work and could be done, for example, while children are in school.

To find out more, contact FRS Farm Relief, call 0818 890 890 or visit this webpage.

Other articles:

For successful calf housing this spring, farmers should remember three key points relating to stocking density, ambient temperature, and nesting scores.

Read an article on calf rearing tips.

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