Color Coded Calf Rearing- Solutions Summary

Color Coded Calf Rearing- Solutions Summary



Raising calves can take a lot of hard work and dedication. In the end the rewards of satisfaction in a healthy animal, and the increases in future production are well worth it! Setting goals and monitoring results in these 5 areas will ensure success in your calf rearing program!


1 – Colostrum

  • Ensure colostrum is clean
    • <100,000 cfu/ml bacteria
    • <10,000 cfu/ml coliform
    • <1,000 cfu/ml E. coli
  • Administer the highest quality colostrum to the calf in a timely manner after birth.
    • For instructions on how to assess colostrum quality click here
  • Volume
    • Feed a calf 5-6% of their body weight in high quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. The animal can benefit from a second feeding of high-quality colostrum 6-12 hours later. A total of 10% of body weight in colostrum in the first day of life.


 2 – Cleanliness

  • Keep the maternity area clean, dry, and well bedded.
  • Properly wash and sanitize equipment. For detailed steps visit our previous blog post Color Coded Calf Rearing - Disease Prevention
  • Maintain clean buckets for food and water.
  • Calf housing should follow an all-in all-out principle. Clean and disinfect hutches between calves.  If possible allow them time to rest before putting in a new calf.  Keep hutches dry and well bedded.


3 – Nutrition

  • Ensure calves have adequate nutrition for maintenance and growth.
  • Discuss milk feeding programs with your Nutritionist or other knowledgeable sales person. For more information on different milk feeding programs visit our previous blog post Color Coded Calf Rearing - Milk Feeding Systems. 
  • Offer free choice water and a properly balanced starter at 3-7 days of age. Monitor intakes and initiate the weaning process when the calf consumes 2 lbs. (909 g) of starter for 3 consecutive days in a row.


4 – Individual Needs

  • Each calf is different and should be evaluated on an individual calf basis. Observe calf behavior for early identification of disease. 
  • Treat calves individually and not as a whole mass.
  • Weaning age and even milk volume fed may be determined on a calf by calf basis.


5 – Animal Welfare

  • Ensure proper animal handling by properly training employees.
  • Follow through with accountability to motive employees to handle animals humanely and to perform tasks per proper protocol.
  • For resources for employee training visit the National Dairy FARM program.


 Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

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