The cow is one of the most common animals around the world. In the English language, there are several words to describe an animal at various ages. A baby cow is known as a calf (plural calves). A baby cow is a young domestic cow. A baby cow is reared to become an adult cow. Calving pen is used for the birth of calf. A baby cow should be provided colostrum immediately after its birth. Colostrum is very important for developing the immunity in calves. Before the weaning of calf, pre weaning strategies should be adopted to strengthen the calf. milk replacer of a good quality should be used for the better development of the calf. A female baby cow is called a heifer calf and a male baby cow is known as a bull calf.
The birth of a baby cow is known as calving.
“Calf” is a term used for baby cow from birth to weaning (weaning is a process of slowly introducing an infant mammal to what will be its adult diet while withdrawing the supply of its mother’s milk. An infant is considered to be fully weaned once it is no longer depends upon breast milk or a substitute). In some areas, the term “calf” may be used for the baby cow until the baby cow is a yearling.
A calf that lost its mother during its birth is an orphan calf and known as poddy or poddy-calf.
Bobby calf is a young calf that is to be slaughtered for human consumption.
A vealer is a fat calf, which is at about eight to ninth months of age, weighing less than about 330 kg (730lb).
The term “heifer” is used for a female calf that has not its offspring. The term “heifer” refers to an immature female calf. A heifer becomes a cow after giving birth to her first calf.
A male baby cow is known as a bull cow.
Steer or bullock:
A neutered male calf which is primarily raised for beef is known as steer or bullock.
A motherless, small, and runty calf is sometimes known as a doggie.
An adult male cow is known as bull.
The mother of a newly born calf is known as a dam.
Managements for the birth of calf:
A calving pen is an individual loose box used for calving. It is one of the most strategic locations on the form.
Characteristics of good calving pen:
- Its size should be 3m x 4m.
- It should be comfortable so there is low stress on the dam (mother of calf).
- It should be well ventilated.
- Sufficient light is necessary.
- Attendant quarters should be established near the calving pen to check out the calving process during nighttime.
- The floor of the calving pen should be dry and clean and having a grass cover is essential.
Advantages of calving pen:
- It provides better protection to cows and calves.
- It avoids disturbances from other cows.
- Special attention can be given to cows and calves.
- There is a low health risk to a calf in a calving pen.
- It provides an opportunity for seclusion by the dam.
Care of cow and calf at calf’s birth:
- The cow should be transferred to individual calving pens before the probable date of calving (1 to 2 weeks before the expected calving date).
- A generous supply of bedding, enough amount of drinking water, and laxative feed should be provided to the cow.
- The calving pen should be cleaned and sterilized before bringing in the cow.
- An antiseptic solution like tincture Iodine or Povidone-iodine, thread, scissors, lubricants like liquid paraffin, vegetable oils must be available in a calving pen.
- Obstetrical equipment like hook, snare, calf puller, and wire saw should be made available all the time in the calving pen.
- Emergency drugs like local anesthetics, antibiotics, analgesics, and calcium boroglugonate must be provided in the calving pen.
- Other items like emergency light, towel, soap, buckets, aprons, etc should be provided in the calving pen.
- In villages, where farmers are maintaining only one or two animals, they must tie their cow in an advanced stage of pregnancy separately under visibility.
- The cow should be tied with sufficient rope so that it can move freely and can take care of the newborn easily during the nighttime when the calving is unnoticed.
- After the birth of the calf, the calving pen should be sterilized completely with 4 percent caustic soda.
Managements after calving:
- Hindquarter and udder of the cow must be washed with lukewarm water having an antiseptic solution of potassium permanganate lotion.
- Then udder and hindquarter must be dried with a clean cloth.
- The calf should be allowed to remain with the mother in the calving pen for 7 to 10 days and weaning should not be practiced on a one-day calf.
- The placenta should be expelled within 12 to 24 hours after parturition and if it is not expelled in 24 hours get the help of a Veterinarian to be removed manually.
- Before manual removal of the placenta, the temperature of the cow should be noted.
- In the case of fever, attempts should be made to reduce fever.
- If no attempts are made to reduce fever then the systematic infection may establish.
- If the cow is showing the signs of any metabolic disorders like milk fever (a metabolic disorder caused by insufficient calcium during calving), grass tetany (it is a highly fatal disease caused by the low level of magnesium in the blood), acidosis (having too much acid in body fluid), and ketosis (when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy) then the cow should be monitored carefully and its disorders should be treated carefully.
Colostrum feeding of a baby cow:
Immediately after birth, a baby cow should be provided colostrum of its mother. The calf must rely on the colostrum for the development of its immune system.
Colostrum is the first milk produced by all the mammals after delivery or the first milk secreted after parturition is called colostrum. It is a thick, yellowish form of milk. It is typically available in the days immediately after birth.
Time for giving colostrum to calf:
We have to provide colostrum to the calf as soon as possible after birth, mainly within one hour. Only after 24 hours of birth, the calf is capable of absorbing antibodies present in the colostrum. The calf’s ability to absorb antibodies of colostrum decreases with each passing hour after birth. The second meal of colostrum is necessary for the calf which has not drunk about 2 liters of colostrum at the first meal. Stored the colostrum of the dam in the refrigerator and use an esophageal tube feeder to give it to the calf at the time of the second meal. While the second meal is not necessary for the calf which has suckled 2 liters at the first meal.
Composition of colostrum:
- It contains different minerals and vitamin A which are helpful in fighting many diseases.
- Colostrum contains about 22 percent solid as compared to normal milk of cow which contains only 12 percent solids.
- Colostrum also contains immunoglobulin and vitamin E.
- Colostrum is rich in fats and carbohydrates that provide energy to the calf.
- It contains many disease-fighting proteins, growth hormones, and digestive enzymes.
- Colostrum has a large number of gamma globulin which is mainly anti-body produced by the cow against antigens encounter during her life. The gamma globulin must be absorbed in the intestinal wall into the bloodstream without being broken down into the constituent peptides or amino acids.
- Colostrum is rich in antibodies IgA, IgG, and IgM.
- Colostrum of mature cow contains a large number of gamma globulins because they have a greater chance of exposure to many infections.
- It contains growth and tissue repair factors.
- Colostrum contain lactoferrin which is a protein involved in your body’s immune system’s responses to infections.
- It is the main source of nutrient having 7 times the protein and twice the total solids of normal milk
Advantages of Colostrum:
- The vitamin A present in the colostrum increases calf survivability.
- It can improve the gut health of the baby cow.
- The absorption of antibodies which are present in the colostrum provides the calf a passive immunity.
- It is the first immune system defense received by the calf after birth.
- It gives a laxative effect to a calf which is helpful in the expulsion of meconium (first feces).
A disadvantage of drinking excess colostrum:
The excess colostrum can be milked out daily otherwise the calf can drink in excess that results in calf scour.
Storage of excess colostrum:
Excess colostrum can be stored by the refrigerator and can be given to other calves, especially orphan calves.
It can also be frozen. It can be fermented naturally and we can store it for 5 to 7 days and can use it later.
If the colostrum is not available due to the accidental death of the mother of the calf then the substitute of colostrum can be used.
Formation of substitute of colostrum:
It can be formed by mixing two whole eggs in one liter of milk and 30 ml of castor oil. It should be given to the calf three times a day.
Weaning management of calf:
Weaning is considered the most stressful period in the productive life of a baby cow. During the process of weaning, calves are exposed to several stressors that include physiological changes (actively developing lean or muscle tissues), castration, vaccination, and exposure to the novel pen or pasture environments.
These several stressors (individually or in various combinations) are tremendous challenges to the calf’s short-term and long-term health, gain performance, and economic viability.
Pre-weaning managements are important to develop the ability in calves to perform a function when exposed to the stressors associated with weaning. The nutritional status of the calf tells us how well the calf will mount an immune response to vaccination and challenges associated with the stress of weaning. Pre-weaning diets should be contained, protein, energy, mineral, and vitamins to ensure the calf’s health, welfare, and performance.
Important guidelines in young calf rearing:
- Each baby cow should be treated individually.
- Each calf should be weighed weakly and feed according to body growth and response.
- Group feeding should be avoided because it can cause overfeeding or underfeeding.
- A calf should be fed twice or more times in a day because one-time feeding may cause diarrhea indigestion which further causes dehydration.
- Milk pails, milk containers, milk buckets, and other appliances must be kept clean and hygienic.
- Before feeding the calf, milk should be boiled and cooled at body temperature.
- Milk should be given 3 or 4 times a day during the first weak and after 90 days of age, milk should be given only two times a day to a calf.
- Overfeeding should be avoided.
- The pen floor should be kept dry and the clean drinking water should be made available all the time in the pen.
- Antibiotics should be mixed in the milk of the calf to improve the growth rate.
Training of baby cow for pail feeding:
- To make the feeding process easier, the weaned calves should be trained to drink milk from pails or buckets.
- Some calves learn quickly to drink milk from the pail but it is a little bit difficult to train some calves.
- First, the milk is boiled and then cooled. The boiled and cooled milk is poured into the milk pail and it should be placed in front of the calf.
- The calf should not be forced to drink milk by forcing its head into the milk pail.
- If you forced the head of a calf into the milk pail then the calf may be frightened.
- The frightened may not come closer to the milk pail.
- The attendant should clean his two fingers (middle and index finger) and dip his fingers into the milk and keep close to the mouth of the calf.
- The calf will start to suckle the fingers after tasting the milk.
- The attendant should remove fingers from the calf’s mouth and dipped them into the milk again and put them again into the calf’s mouth.
- This process should be repeated until the calf stops drinking and lifts its head.
Milk replacer is a creme-colored dry powder having no fragrance.
Components of milk replacer:
- Milk replacer contains skim milk powder, vegetable fat, and buttermilk powder.
- A small amount of glucose, soya bean flour, cereal flour, minerals, and vitamins are also present in milk replacer.
Characteristics of a good milk replacer:
- It should contain a minimum of 50 percent dried skim milk powder.
- It should contain 10 to 15 percent high-quality fat.
- It should be supplemented with vitamin A, E, and B12.
- It should be incorporated with antibiotic feed additives.
- It should contain 22 to 25 percent good quality protein.
- It should be readily dispersible in water.
- It should be free of starch and fiber.
- It should flow well as a powder for automatic feeding equipment.
- 1:8 is the optimum ratio of milk replacer (kg) and water (liter).
- It should be foam-free; the calves may take in the entrapped air of foam which results in bloating so it should be foam-free.
- Good milk replacer contains 50 parts of spray-dried skimmed milk powder, 10 parts of dried whey, and 40 parts of the nonmilk source.
The composition of good milk replacer suggested by Ohio workers is given below,
|Components:||Amount in kg|
|Dried skim milk||70 kg|
|Dried whey||18 kg|
|Animal fat||10 kg|
|Copper sulphates, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese sulfate, Antibiotics||Traces|
There is no requirement for feeding any whole milk after colostrum feeding if a good quality milk replacer is used.
Partial milk replacer:
A partial milk replacer is different from a milk replacer because it does not contain a high amount of milk or skim milk powder.
An example of partial milk replacer is given below,
|Components||Amount in kg|
|Total =100 kg|
A calf starter is a small amount of dry food given to a calf from the second week of life. The components of a calf starter may be changed according to the availability of feed-in region and cost. You can discontinue the milk feeding of your calf when the calf starts consuming 0.4 to 0.5 kg of the starter every day. Different types of calf starter are available in the market.
Purpose of calf starter:
Its main purpose is to transition the calf from the milk feeding period to the dry feeding period.
Composition of a calf starter:
|Wheat bran or rice bran||10|
Characteristics of a good calf starter:
- It should be highly palatable.
- It should contain 14 to 16 percent digestible crude proteins.
- It should contain 75 percent of total digestible nutrients.
Advantages of a calf starter:
- Calf starter is helpful in the growth of baby cow
- It is helpful in the proper development of the calf.
- It is a source of different nutrients.
Summary: A baby cow is known as a calf. The birth of a calf is known as calving. The mother of the calf should be transformed into a calving pen before the probable date of calving. Immediately after the birth of the calf, colostrum should be provided to it. After colostrum feeding, we should give training to a baby cow for pail feeding. A milk replacer is given to the calf. After weaning, a calf starter is given to the calf which must be rich in nutrients.
Diseases of calves:
As the body of a calf is not developed properly so the first few weeks are most crucial of a young calf’s life. It is important that as a livestock farmer you should be aware of the common calf diseases. And you should know what steps to take to prevent and treat them.
Septicemia is also known as sepsis. It is blood poisoning caused by bacteria. Septicemia occurs when the infection-causing bacteria enter the bloodstream of a baby cow and circulate throughout its body resulting in the calf’s death due to failure of many organs. Bacteria gain excess to the blood of the calf and cause many other infections such as navel infection, pneumonia, or diarrhea. Navel infection allows bacteria to travel into the bloodstream with the help of the umbilical vein soon after the calf’s birth.
There are no symptoms of septicemia. Calves may not show any illness signs. Some calves with septicemia are dull, weak, and might have a fever. However, a fever is not a tell-tale sign of septicemia because minor infections can also cause fever.
- Septicemia occurs because the calf is born with a weak immune system or without an active immune system.
- It can also occur when the calf has not been provided sufficient immune protection by colostrum.
- Another cause is that the colostrum which is given to the calf contains a very low amount of antibodies.
The calf that absorbs many antibodies from the colostrum has a very lower septicemia risk. However, there is no proper treatment for septicemia.
It is the most common cause of death in young calves. It is avoidable by good management. From birth to one month of age, the calf has the highest risk period for diarrhea. According to a report of the 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System for U.S. dairy, half of the deaths among unweaned calves were caused by diarrhea.
- Production of thin and watery feces.
- Signs of dehydration appears in the calf such that rough hair, dry mucous membrane, and sunken eyes:
- The calf is unable to rise.
- The calf loses its consciousness.
- Antibiotics and rehydration fluids should be given to calves. (Antibiotics are only useful if the cause of diarrhea is a bacterial infection). Vaccination of the calves should be done as soon as possible.
- Anti-inflammatory and mineral supplementation should also be provided to the calves.
It is the most common disease of calves. It is the cause of several viral infections in the calves. It causes an inflammation of the lungs.
- Mucosal discharge
- Dry cough
- Body temperature over 39.6°C
- Viral infection
- Low environmental temperature
- High humidity
You may need antibiotics, respiratory stimulants, and anti-inflammatory medication to stave off the illness. In some cases, pneumonia may stop the calf’s growth even after it is cured.
It starts from the mouth and if left untreated it can travel into the lungs and caused many other bacterial infections like pneumonia.
Symptoms of diphtheria:
- Cheek inflammation
- Soreness and swelling of the throat
- Painful tongue and mouth ulcers
- Calves are unable to feed because of oral discomfort.
The ulcer in the mouth and tongue of the calf is caused by the bawling of the calf. However, the primary cause of bacteria is that the damaged oral mucous membranes allowed the secondary colonization of Fusobacteriumnecrophorum
- Keep the calves away from bushes, thistles, and other sharp objects like nails or screws that they might try to put in their mouth.
- Antibiotics are the most effective treatment in the case of diphtheria and there is a wide range of antibiotics available in the market that is capable to cure diphtheria.
It is an infection caused by the bacteria of the Salmonella type.
- Abdominal cramps
The calf should be taken to a warm and isolated environment and antibiotics should be given to the calf. Calf’s living area is must be cleaned and germs-free.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. What is the purpose of the umbilical cord in a baby cow?
The umbilical cord is the supply line of a baby cow. It carries the calf’s blood back and forth, between the calf and the placenta of its mother. It provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby and removes the calf’s waste products. It begins to form 5 weeks after conception.
2. How long does a mother cow carry its baby?
Gestation length is different for every breed and the sex of the calf. The range of gestation length is 279 to 287 days. For most breeds, 283 days are common. Cows carrying bull calves tend to have a longer gestation period as compared to cows carrying heifer calves.
3. How does a mother cow know its calf?
Sound, smell, and touch are three things that a cow recognizes when identifying its calf. It starts with the first lick after the birth and which is repeated to strengthen the bond. Pheromones provide unique olfactory signals that act as internal receptors for the mother cow and help in differentiating its baby from all the others.
4. How early can a baby cow be weaned?
Calves can be weaned after two months of age. However, weaning is not practical under most ranch conditions.
5. How long does a baby cow need milk?
A baby cow needs milk from birth to two weeks of age.
6. How can you tame a baby cow?
If you want to tame a baby cow you have to spend time with the baby cow. You need to spend time petting, haltering, and just handling it to tame it down.
7. How can you improve your calf’s health?
The key to success is providing a calf a comfortable environment that is well-fed and free of sickness. The calf should be kept in a clean environment with access to a dry and draught-free shed area. During wet periods hand-reared calf must need to be moved into the dry area until it gets used to going there itself.
8. Are raw eggs are best for a newborn baby cow?
Raw eggs are best for baby calves because raw eggs are the best and pure source of proteins that are essential for the proper growth and development of baby calves.
9. What is scouring in calves?
It is a disease in which calves develop severe diarrhea and become dehydrated. It is caused by the bacteria E.coli or some other viruses.
10. Can scours kill a calf?
Diarrhea causes dehydration in a calf which is the direct source of death from scours. Moreover, in scours, the body of a calf loses electrolytes along with water and electrolytes are important to maintain all bodily functions. The absence of electrolytes in the body causes metabolic acidosis which will kill the calf, if it is not treated properly, within two days.
A baby cow is known as a calf. Special care should be provided to the calf and its mother during the process of calving. Colostrum feeding is very necessary for a baby cow for the development of its immune system. The process of weaning, pail feeding, and giving a calf starter to a calf should be carried out properly. As the body of the calf is not developed properly so the first few days are very important days of a calf’s life. Pneumonia, diarrhea, septicemia, and diphtheria are common diseases in calves. A livestock farmer must be aware of the common diseases of calves and the treatment of these diseases.