01 march 2022
3 min

About calving and the health of calves

About calving and the health of calves

Ainagul Ayaganova, deputy project manager for competence development in Kazakhstan's dairy sector, spoke about the most common mistakes Kazakh cattle farmers make during calving. She also shared recommendations on preserving the health of the calf and reducing mortality, World of NAN reports. 

Ainagul Ayaganova noted that the cause of problems during calving may be an incorrectly selected bull during insemination. Artificial insemination is being used more and more often in Kazakhstan, and this process can be regulated and the bull can be selected correctly.   

"Sometimes breeders do not pay attention to the breeding indices of the bull. Among other indices, it is necessary to consider his heredity and the index of ease of calving. It is the latter that should be paid attention to when selecting seed for first heifers and for small cattle," the expert explains. 

It is important to place cows before calving in a barn, regardless of the type of housing, in a loose box with deep clean bedding, and it is advisable to provide visual contact with other animals. Eliminate sources of stress. It is also recommended not to disturb the cow for six hours during calving, observing the development of labor activity every hour. Often during this time the cow is able to give birth on her own. 

"On many farms there is excessive assistance in birthing, with several people or even a tractor pulling the calf. If a cow still needs birthing assistance, a specialist should be called in, clean tools should be used, and it is advisable to have a birthing attendant on the farm. Pulling the calf is allowed only during contractions," explained Ainagul.

It is important to observe the feeding of cows before calving. The cow should receive 80 percent of the diet of milking cows in 2-3 weeks. That is, grain, silage and haylage. If there is no wet fodder, then barley, wheat and meal are introduced. 

"If a cow is fed dry fodder until calving, she will begin to weaken. It can also affect the development of the calf. Increased feeding will give energy to the growing body. Also, changing the feed will prepare the cow's rumen, that is, the microbes in the rumen will be ready for the new diet. After calving, there is a sharp return of milk, and if the rumen microflora is not yet ready to digest the feed, then there will be problems", - says the expert. 


After calving, the biggest influence on the health of calves is the management of colostrum. The calving cow transmits all her antibodies to the calf through colostrum. The calf is born with zero immunity, it is not protected from external factors. The first milk, colostrum, contains a high concentration of immunoglobulins. The immunoglobulins come through the calf's feed and are also absorbed by the small intestine, where the pores are open for 16 hours. Thus, the immunoglobulins enter the bloodstream in the first hours. 

"There is a golden rule - in the first four hours drink the first four liters of colostrum to the calf. If the calf is small, you can reduce the volume. And this way you practically protect it from all the bacteria and viruses that are in the barn. If this rule is violated, early diarrhea, rickets, etc. begins. I have personally observed many times that calves fed with colostrum are much stronger than others. And there is no probability here, it's a proven fact in practice by many farms", - said Ainagul. 

According to her data, for some reason this rule is neglected by Kazakhstani breeders, although it is the cheapest and easiest way to ensure the safety of calves. Also breeders often violate the technology of milking.  

"You have to keep the temperature of the milk at 38 degrees. No lower. Our breeders very rarely warm the milk, they think that since we just milked it, it is warm and suitable for calves. In fact, when you drink it and pour it into a bucket, there is a very big loss of temperature. That's why it's imperative to warm the milk. I recommend to heat it up to 40 degrees, if it's not far from the calf-house", - advises the trainer NemAC. 

If the technology of milking is violated, diarrhea begins, and as is often observed, the intake of antibiotics starts, which destroys the microflora. If everything is done according to the technology, calves don't have diarrhea and their organism works properly. The specialist recommends observing the technology of milking throughout the entire dairy period. Also in case of milking with whole milk there is a big deficit of iron, as such it is necessary to replenish it. 

We remind you that you can find more detailed information on calving, milking and feeding of calves at Kazakhstani Dairy Project website.


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