The care given to a calf within its first 24 hours of life is essential as well as mandatory, as it determines the status of the animal for the rest of its life.
A calf not adequately cared for in the first 24 hours of birth is susceptible to diseases or might remain weak and become an under-performer. Although, the calf may have a strong genetic makeup, good feed regime, and environment, however, lack of proper nursing may affect its growth and performance.
Caring for a Newborn Calf Within its First 24 hours of Birth
– Ensure calves are born in clean, dry environments with fresh, unsoiled beddings.
– Clean nostrils and mouth of the calf, this helps to prevent difficult breathing and future breathing problems.
– Allow the dam access to lick the calf clean after birth as it promotes the circulation of blood within the calf’s body and prevents lameness.
– Cut the umbilical cord of the animal to a distance of about 2 inches from the calf’s navel with a clean sanitized instrument to prevent navel infections through contamination.
– Tie the exposed end of the cord with a clean thread to close the opening. Note that navel infections can lead to lameness, poor weight gain, and possibly death.
– Dip the umbilical stump in an effective antibacterial solution. Experts have suggested a 7% tincture iodine solution for the effective drying of the navel.
– Re-dip the navel at 24 hours of age for effectiveness.
It is important to also note that the entire cord must be submerged in the solution. Additionally, the calf’s navel area must be checked two to three times during its first week of life to ensure healing and dryness.
A hardened navel that is enlarged or causes discomfort for the calf when palpated might be signs of an infection.
A newly born calf should be given 2 litres of colostrum within the first 2 hours of birth and 1-2 litres (based on size) within 12 hours of birth.
Studies have shown that many calves do not get adequate amount of colostrum from their dams within the first few hours after birth which may lead to inadequate immunity while also feeding colostrum after 24 hours of birth may not help the calf to ward off infections.
Also, it should be well noted that a calf must receive adequate colostrum to protect it from diseases for the first three months of its life.
Hand-feeding of new-born calves is therefore recommended in other to ensure that individual calf receives colostrum especially within the first 24 hours of life.
De-worming should also be done within 10-14 days of age subsequently every month up to the 6th month.