This is one of the calves at our farm in her hutch
Cows have calves on our farm every day. When calves are born, their navel is dipped in iodine to dry the umbilical cord and prevent pathogens from entering the calf's body through the cord, and then they are fed colostrum (the first milk from the mother).
Shortly after birth, they are moved to an individual hutch where they receive personal attention in a controlled setting. The first months of life are critical for the calves health and well-being. It’s important that calves are born and raised in a clean environment. Their hutches are filled with clean, dry straw to keep each calf comfortable and healthy. Individual hutches allow each calf to have their own milk, grain and water without competing with other, possibly stronger, herd mates. Hutches provide a healthy setting protecting calves from each other’s germs. They are housed individually for about two months then they are moved to group housing.
Jessica, mother of three, manages the calf program at our farm. She is wonderful with the calves and we are fortunate to have her on our team.
According to the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, “The greatest mortality and morbidity period for dairy cattle is the first 6 to 8 weeks of life. Management goals should be to minimize disease and mortality by providing a suitable environment, establishing a quality nutritional program, and implementing a preventive health care plan. Individual pens separate calves and reduce the spread of communicable diseases and make it easier to observe behavior, feed consumption, and fecal and urine production. Changes in feed consumption and fecal consistency can be early indicators of disease.”
According to Cornell University, “From a health aspect, recommendations are to raise newborn calves in individual pens, since calves need individual attention and observation during this time. Also, isolation from other calves minimizes the potential of disease spreading, and access to feed and water takes place without competition.”
Fresh cows are more susceptible to illness or death after calving, so our focus is getting that cow to eat and drink to keep her healthy and strong. Once the calf is moved, the fresh cow can focus on eating and drinking to get the nutrients she needs to stay healthy. After calving, fresh cows transition into the milking herd with their herd mates. Here they receive a feed ration prepared by a nutritionist, can rest in an individual bed in our barn and receive the care they need to thrive. Cows do very well in this environment. Only comfortable and content cows produce milk.
There is a purpose for everything we do on our farm. It’s based on experience working with cattle, scientific research and best practices with the end goal of animal comfort, health and well-being.