Effective management of pre-weaned dairy calves

5 Critical points

Research shows that the first 2 month of a calf's life represents a clear window of opportunity to maximise long-term performance. What is lost in that specific time period in terms of health and growth simply cannot be made up later on, no matter how aggressive the feeding or how impressive the management practices.

Metabolic programming explained

The long-lasting effect of metabolic programming on the calf's healthThe understanding of how external or environmental factors in early development can have long-lasting effects on lifetime health, known as metabolic programming, has been studied as a major factor in human disease and prevention for close to 40 years.
These studies have shown that it is not only one's genetic make-up that determines if certain diseases develop
(or not), but also the programming that happens after birth, in the first several weeks of life, that can shift the expression of genes in either positive or negative ways.

For dairy animals, the quality of calf nutrition and management in the first 60 days of life will permanently affect the health and productivity of the calf and cow over a lifetime.
Certain feeding and management practices prior to weaning have been shown to influence eventual lactation production, three to five years after they are implemented.
Therefore, it is essential that special care be taken during the pre-weaning period so that the genetic potential of each calf is maximised, and so that each calf can reach the its healthiest and highest level of productivity possible.

5 Critical Control Points for pre-weaned dairy calves

What specific steps can be taken on-farm to ensure the best possible conditions for growing calves and the highest probability of boosting the positive effects of metabolic programming? In brief, the 5 critical control points are:

5 Critical points for pre-weaned dairy calves


  • Utilising these 5 Critical Control Points can help dairy farms focus on early health and growth. Results have been quite remarkable. Research has shown that by feeding more nutrients, you do get higher levels of eventual milk production.
  • In a meta-analysis of twelve scientific studies, researchers found that for every additional kilo of ADG that a calf has prior to weaning, they produce 1500 kilos more milk during their 1st lactation.
  • An elevated plane of nutrition leads to higher ADGs which lead to greater milk production at 1st lactation.
  • Following LifeStart guidelines for early nutrition and management is a key to better results!

Dairy farmers focussing on early health and growth of their calves