The first weeks in a calf's life

First weeks

Shaping the calf’s future as a dairy cow

The goal of the first week is to rear healthy calves and encourage them to start drinking milk on their own. It is important that you ensure the health and strength of the calves before admitting them into a group of others. There are numerous health challenges during this period so it is important that you follow strict hygiene guidelines and monitor your animals closely.


  • Choose a calf rearing system that suits your farm and ensures the following:
    - Good ventilation: clean air and a draught-free environment
    - Good bedding management and cleaning routines
    - A stable temperature: avoiding cold and heat stress at the calf level
  • Develop standard routines for feeding that includes
    - Cleaning and disinfection routines to ensure best hygiene
       at all times
    - Feed colostrum or transition milk for at least 4 days
    - A milk feeding set-up that allows the calf to suck easily in
       the natural posture
    -Provide clean water, high-quality starter feed and hay from the first week
  • Feed and handle the youngest calves first and end with the oldest to avoid the spread of infections
  • Check calf health at east twice daily and record, inform and act immediately on the issue
  • House sick or weak calves separately until they have recovered and are vigorous


  • Wet calves and wet bedding
  • Feeding unpasteurised milk and waste milk containing antibiotics
  • Allowing calves to drink milk in incorrect position
  • Rapid change of milk type and concentration of milk replacer
  • Fecal or other contamination of milk, feed or water
  • Using a milk replacer not adapted for young calves
  • Feeding or handling young calves after older animals
  • Exposing sick or weak calves to temperature stress (warm or cold)

You can find out much more about the calf’s first weeks in the Calf Management booklet.

Contact your local DeLaval sales representative to learn all about calf management.

Feeding for high growth rate

Calf management booklet

DeLaval calf catalogue

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