Experts say that the first 15 minutes of a calf’s life can be the most crucial, as it impact how she performs for the rest of her life. Jim Dickrell of Dairy Herd Management spoke with Amanda Fordyce, a technical dairy calf consultant for Milk Products, to find helpful tips, which we will briefly discuss below.
Once the calves front hooves appear, resist the temptation to help it along. When cows deliver naturally, they may pause for a couple of minutes once the calf’s ribcage emerges. During this time, the calf takes its first breath and about 1 pint of blood from the placenta is transferred to the calf. As long as the calf is positioned properly and the delivery is progressing as it should, it would be best to let it run its course and monitor the process.
If the calf has not taken its first breath, a clean piece of straw in the nostrils or pouring cold water on its forehead may do the trick. Sitting the calf on its sternum with its front legs tucked under the body will open the airways, making it easier for the calf to breathe.
Dangling Is a Myth
Some experts swear by this method where the newborn calf is lifted upside down, much like a newborn baby. This is supposed to expel fluid from the lungs. In truth, it only expels stomach contents and makes it harder for the calf to breathe.
Calves that are not breathing but have a heartbeat can be revived in some cases. First, check for a heartbeat by feeling the ribcage under the left leg. If a heartbeat is present, vigorously rub the chest and perform the techniques listed under First Breaths.
Just like in human babies, colostrum plays an important role in calves. They absorb crucial antibodies and immune factors for their dam. This ability is said to decrease rapidly after 24 hours. Fordyce recommends 3 to 4 quarts of colostrum within their first two hours of life if a calf is breathing normally.
Warming boxes are a necessity in colder weather. However, these helpful tools can also be harmful to calves. They can be reservoirs for harmful microorganisms if not sanitized properly. Another concern would be leaving them in there for 48 hours or longer. This can deplete their bodies of brown fat. Ideally, they should be left in one just until their hair coat is dry. A calf jacket and even extra bedding might be a better option when temperatures go below 30°F.
If you find these tips helpful, click here to read the full article from Dairy Herd Management.
Rick Pascual, CPC/ PRC • Dairy Recruiter
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