“If you want 99-plus percent of calves to live, follow the ‘big four’ at calving,” shared Lane Sollenberger with those attending the First International Conference of Calf and Heifer held in Baoding, Hebei, China. “This must be done right at birth if you want calves to thrive,” said the general manager of Dream Farms in Newburg, Pa. The big four include the knee test, colostrum, navel care, and housing.
“It starts with the knee test,” said the lifelong calf and heifer specialist.
“Get on your knees in the calving pen. Kneel for 30 seconds.
“What are the conditions in that pen?” Sollenberger asked the audience. “Your knees better be dry because that calf needs to be born in a clean environment,” said the three-year president of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association.
“Colostrum is so important,” he said of the second “big four” to the Chinese audience. “Colostrum at birth means feeding 4 quarts within the first four hours of birth. That colostrum must be clean and be high quality,” he further explained. “I like to get that colostrum in calves even sooner than four hours. If you miss this step, you will have failure of passive immunity transfer.”
As for the third item on the checklist, “Pay attention to the navel birth,” said the Pennsylvania native. “Trim the navel to 4 inches and be sure to apply 7 percent iodine to disinfect it.”
Sollenberger, who is a lifelong learner, said, “Of the calves that die on our farm, over half of them are due to navel infections. We know this because we perform necropsies on calves.” He went on to explain that some of these deaths are due to navel infections while others were caused by failure of passive immunity transfer.
The final step in the big four involves getting that calf into a clean, dry pen. “Remove the calf immediately after birth and place the newborn in a clean, dry, well-bedded pen,” Sollenberger said.
“On the road to the success, there are no shortcuts. You must follow these steps to have healthy calves,” Sollenberger summed up his presentation at the Chinese conference.