Heifers are the future milk-production units of a dairy farm. To protect your investment in the future, manage and feed heifers to grow economically and at the optimum rate of calve at two years of age. The first two months after birth are critical to achieving these objectives.
The keys to starting calves off on the right foot are to hand-feed colostrum as soon as possible after birth; start feeding calf starter and free-choice water at four days of age; wait to feed hay until calves are eight weeks old or weaned and are eating four to six pounds of grain; and feed weaned calves enough protein and other nutrients for proper skeletal and muscular growth.
Calves are born with little defense or immunity against disease. They acquire resistance through timely and adequate intake of high-quality colostrum in the mother's first milk. It is common to let the calf nurse its mother. However, research shows that many calves do not nurse adequate amounts of colostrum in the first hours of life to provide the immunity necessary to fight off disease.