Right Calf Nutrition Plan

The most sensitive period of rearing a young calf is from birth to three months. Calf managers must pay special attention to details in order to ensure success during the first phase of rearing. Establishing a solid calf nutrition program is one of the most important.

Care of the Calf At Birth

Watch out for potential complications as the time nears for cows to calve. Heifers and cows should calve on a dry, grassy, clean lot or in a well-bedded pen. The pen should be rectangular and provide 150-200 square feet of space. They should also have adequate lighting and ventilation but not be obstructed by drafts. 

If there is a windbreak, beef cows can calve outdoors. After the umbilical cord of the newborn calf is cut, the calf should be able to start breathing. Get rid of any mucus from the nostrils. Don’t pound the calf’s chest or lift it by its rear legs. This can cause more harm than good. The navel cord should be dipped with a 7% iodine solution within a few hours after birth. 

After delivery, the cow should be allowed a chance to touch the calf. If the weather is cold or the cow doesn’t want to lick the baby, it should be dried with clean towels. This is not only to dry the calf but also stimulates blood circulation. Dairy calves are generally removed from their dams within one hour of being licked clean.

Calf Nutrition Diet Plan 

It is crucial to understand the cattle you plan to feed and the resources available. 

Count the Cattle to Feed 

To understand how many feedstuffs are required to maintain body weight, producers should consider the weight of the cows. The production stage is also essential. A 1,300-pound lactating cow with a dry matter intake rate of 32 pounds per day and her calf with a DMI 7 pounds per day, for example, has a dry matter intake rate of 7 pounds per calf. A 1,300-pound cow in her third trimester has a DMI of only 29 pounds per day.

Match Cow and Environment 

Cows and their production cycles should be matched with their environment. Fall calving is not recommended if you live in North Dakota. This is because cows in peak lactation have higher nutritional needs in the colder months, such as December. A 1,800-pound cow might not be able to thrive in New Mexico.

Also read – USDA Organic Dairy Rule

Also read – Goat Vs. Lamb Meat: Which One Is Healthier?

Calculate Forage Inventory

Cows eat forage in pounds, not in the number of bales. The size and density of bales vary from one operation to the next. If possible, take the time to calculate the average weight of your bales. This will allow you to create a more accurate forage inventory.

Consider how much forage harvested will remain due to dry matter loss during storage. Round bales lying outside, exposed, and in direct contact with the soil will lose 16%-18% of their dry matter. There is only 12% dry matter loss if bales are outdoors and exposed but not in contact with the soil. You can also expect to lose 2 to 4 percent if you keep hay in a barn.

Check Forage Quality

Forage must meet cows’ nutritional needs. A forage analysis of a bale of hay costs on average $12.

Also read – Health Benefits of Eating Quail Meat

Calculate the Forage Required

Once you have determined your inventory, you can calculate the amount of forage required for your herd and whether ends will meet. You should plan for the average year. This includes when your herd will need to be fed mineral supplements or when they can go out to pasture. However, you must plan how to react in case of an unexpected change in the amount of time your cattle need to be fed.

Note that beef cows need 2% of their body weight to achieve DMI every day. To calculate DMI for one cow per day, multiply the average herd weight by 2%. Multiply the result by the number of winter days to calculate how much hay one cow will require.

Absence of Enough Feed

If you don’t have enough feed for cattle or unforeseeable circumstances prolong the feeding period, you should think creatively about making it work.

Purchase Off-farm Nutrients

Producers can purchase forage compatible with existing infrastructure to replace insufficient inventory. Purchased feeds like byproducts, commercial feed, and forage extenders are also options to fill in the inventory gaps. Consider whether the quality and cost of off-farm nutrients are worth it.

Limit Feeding to Preserve Hay 

When there is a shortage of hay, limit feeding is almost always the best option. It is a cost-effective option when there is a hay shortage. It focuses on optimal nutrition and reduces feed waste. Limit feeding can have its downsides. Some cow-calf operations lack the infrastructure required to limit feed, such as bunks or a total mixed diet mixer or forage processor.

Maximize Efficiency 

Winter is the best time to evaluate hay harvest times and hay storage practices to maximize efficiency. You can also improve the efficiency of your equipment. Open hay feeders produce nearly 20% waste, while cone feeders and bottom sheet feeders generate 15% and 10%, respectively.

Technology can increase productivity in the rumen. Ionophores can increase forage utilization by up to 10%. This means cattle can get 10% more feed. It is essential to recognize the necessity to have enough forage inventory to meet your needs. It is easier to reduce 10% forage consumption per day than to reduce 50% within the last 60 days.

Also read – USDA Organic Dairy Rule

Also read – Goat Vs. Lamb Meat: Which One Is Healthier?


Sometimes producers cannot make their current forage inventory meet calf nutrition plans or requirements and budget for additional feedstuff. Cattle enthusiasts will have to make a difficult decision: reduce feed consumption.

How? Cut down old and open cows that could pose a problem in the next few years. Better to consult production records for help in making this decision. To reduce forage intake, you might consider weaning calves before birth.

2 thoughts on “Right Calf Nutrition Plan”

  1. Thankyou for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information.

  2. Your article helped me a lot, is there any more related content? Thanks!


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