Effective calf rearing – Critical Control Point 4: CONSISTENCY

Which protocols should you follow to avoid undue stress on your dairy calves?

Why is consistency an important aspect of calf management? What benefits can come from creating and implementing protocols that emphasize consistency? Which specific protocols should be established to ensure optimal calf health, growth and performance without undue stress? Looking at Consistency as the 4th critical control point in effective calf rearing, these questions are answered.

Why is consistency such an important part of on-farm calf management?

  • Calves thrive on routine
  • Inconsistent management has detrimental effects on calf health and performance
  • Inconsistent management increases calf stress
  • Stressed calves are more likely to become ill

What are the benefits of creating consistent protocols?

  • Makes task performance easier for calf managers
  • Established protocols ensure that variations in staff do not lead to variations in calf care
  • There is little or no added cost

What kinds of simple, clear and consistent protocols should be established?

  • Consistency: an important aspect of calf managementSpecific protocols for navel treatment, hygiene (see Critical Control Point 3) and colostrum management (see Critical Control Point 1) should be in place
  • Protocols for daily calf rearing routines are essential, especially when it comes to consistency of feeding
  • Calves should be fed at least 2 (preferably 3 or more) times per day, at the same times each day
  • Variations in daily CMR intake can reduce ADG. Therefore, accurate and consistent nutritional delivery is essential
  • Proper amounts (see Critical Control Point 2) of completely mixed milk replacer, with the same percentage of solids, and at the same temperature, should be fed every time

While consistency is often overlooked in calf rearing, it's importance cannot be overstated. The LifeStart Program of quality nutrition and calf management requires consistent and thoughtful implementation if the desired calf rearing goals are to be met.

Following specific and consistent feeding and management protocols can reduce calf stress and increase health and performance. Even when the best, high quality colostrum and pre-weaning feeding protocols are combined with the highest standards of cleanliness, calf results can be compromised if care and management are not delivered consistently. Indeed, maintaining consistency of care is an important way that dairy farms can raise the bar for on-farm performance.