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Nutrition

339. An early and adequate intake of colostrum is extremely important in protecting a calf against infectious disease. It is essential that the calf obtains colostrum as soon as is practicable, and certainly within the first six hours of life. This will be an EU requirement from 1 January 1998. Management of calves in the first few hours of birth can profoundly affect colostrum intake. Calves from heifers and from cows with large, pendulous udders are particularly at risk of reduced intake. Allowing the calf to suck naturally may be the most desirable method of management. However, sucking should be supervised and colostrum provided by teat or oesophageal feeder if there is any doubt about quantity or quality of colostrum available from the cow. Colostrum can be fed fresh or from a supply stored in a freezer. It can be stored at ambient temperature for more than two days and still be suitable for feeding to older calves but not to newborn. Fresh colostrum should not be mixed with stored colostrum which is more than two days old. It should not be diluted with water and should not be heated above 50C.

340. Artificial calf rearing systems are usually based on feeding either restricted or unrestricted quantities of milk substitutes. It is preferable for the calf to drink from, or have access to, an artificial teat at least during the first three weeks of life. By the age of two weeks, every calf must be offered roughage, appropriate in quality and sufficient in quantity, to develop and maintain the microbial flora of the gut and sufficient fibre to stimulate the development of villi in the rumen. A palatable early weaning concentrate containing about 20% crude protein and a supply of clean drinking water should be on offer from the first day. A supply of good quality roughage should be freely available to calves prior to weaning.

Recommendations

341. If colostrum cannot be obtained by sucking, it must be provided from another suitable source within the first six hours of life.

342. Where colostrum is not obtained from the cow, it is essential that the calf is given sufficient via an artificial teat or by oesophageal feeder.

343. Every calf must receive a properly balanced diet with adequate nutrients and, by the age of two weeks, must be offered roughage.

344. All feeding and mixing equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after every feed.

345. When an unrestricted feeding regimen is adopted, an adequate number of teats should be provided. Fresh water should also be available close to the teats.