Calf mortality still way too far above target level
Calf mortality in the Netherlands is at 8.2 % for calves up to three days old and 10.8 % for calves of three days to one year old, according to the most recent figures from Rendac and the Dutch organization for Identification & Registration (I&R) of ruminants. This means mortality still far exceeds the target figures that various studies suggest are realistic. What measures are you taking?
The mortality rate of 8.2 % applies to non-ear tagged calves younger than 3 days. This includes aborted fetuses, stillborn calves and calves that die before they receive ear tags. The 10.8 % mortality rate applies to ear-tagged calves from the age of 3 days.
Experts: sharp reduction possible
High calf mortality rates are a persistent problem, despite continual developments and innovations in calf rearing. Most cases of mortality are bacterial diarrhoea, viral diarrhoea and diseases of the airways. Numerous studies show that major improvement is possible for many farms. Experts suggest that less than 5 % calf mortality after 24 hours is a realistic target value.
Early colostrum dosages and hygiene management
The most important measure for preventing calf mortality is early and adequate colostrum dosages. •Try to provide the calf with as much colostrum as possible, as often as possible early on the first day.
•Ideally 4–5 litres within 6 hours.
If you aim to reduce calf mortality permanently, then preventive measures are essential. Proper and consistent hygiene management optimises calf rearing durably!
Calf accommodation requires precision
Successful calf rearing begins with a clean calving stall with fresh straw.
- After birth, the navel must be disinfected and the calves should be accommodated individually for at least 14 days in clean and disinfected igloos or single weaning boxes.
- The calves are then moved to group stalls.
- It is best to work with an all-in, all-out system, though this is not always possible with smaller groups.
Specifically in relation to diseases of the airways, a healthy indoor climate must be provided.
Air circulation must be avoided, as the calves must be able to lie out of the wind and protected to help them maintain body temperature. However, adequate ventilation is also essential to ensure dangerous vapours (gases) are removed.