Best Calf Management Program Guide for the pre-weaning period

Now that you carefully chose the semen and have an offspring, it is time to nurture the calf and strengthen the future of your farm.

Calf management programs not only affect growth and health of calves but also impact a calf’s future performance. Known as perinatal programming, management and nutritional practices during early life have three to seven times more influence on future milk production than sire selection. 

Newborns have an immature immune system which takes 6 months or more to fully mature. Essentially, their immune system has “no memory” and, as a result, does not respond well when faced with a disease challenge. Maternal antibodies from colostrum are essential to protect the newborn for at least the first 2 to 4 months of life. 

A majority of studies have shown that higher Pre-weaning average daily gain positively impacts first-lactation milk yield. Diet and nutrition forms an integral part of the cattle – be it indigenous, cross, imported or buffalos

In case you are looking for dairy guidelines for raising calves, you are at the right place – brings together the latest and the best methodologies to you.  

Here is the checklist for 2020 based on what nutritionists and farmers are recommending.

First 4-5 Days : Colostrum is the foundation for a healthy life

Calves should be fed colostrum within 15 minutes of birth. Thereafter for the next 4-5 days, colostrum should be continued. Typical consumption will be in the range of 5-6 Ltrs. 

Day 6-10 : Introduce Grain 

Thereafter, till about 10 day age, 5 ltrs of milk/ day and 100 gm feed should be given. Grain is a key element of calf rumen development because of its involvement in volatile fatty acids (VFAs) production to support papillae growth. Additionally, the grain-fed calves’ rumens are darker in colour due to greater vascularization, or blood capillary growth, which allows for more VFA absorption into the blood stream. There are many branded and custom calf starters available in the market. You could also get your own formulation of calf starter made – to connect with experts you may email us on
Day 7 should be the first deworming for the calf. Usually albendazole based dewormers are used. There are many companies that manufacture and you could review with your local suppliers – for any assistance on this, you may email us on

Day 11-20 : Progressively increase feed intake

Calf should progressively be fed more concentrated feed and should be consuming around 400gm/ day after about a week. Milk intake to be retained at 5 Ltrs/ day.

Day 21-45 : Reduce Milk and Introduce Forages

Progressively reduce milk to 3 Ltrs a day and increase feed to 400 gms/ day. Thereafter by the end of 45 days, feed to be increased to 1 Kg/ day. Water can be offered to calves only after 40 days of birth.

Day 21 should be the second deworming for the calf. Usually albendazole based dewormers are used. There are many companies that manufacture and you could review with your local.
After 41 days, green fodder can start. Calves fed forages earlier will begin to ruminate, and will have greater flow of saliva into the rumen and greater muscle development of the rumen wall. However, they will have insufficient concentrations of VFAs – especially butyrate – that promotes rumen papillae growth, a key component to a functioning rumen.

Day 46-55 : Stop Milk

Progressively reduce milk and stop by Day 55.

Challenges may arise if:
  1. Calf gets Diarrhea. Its milk intake will have to be reduced. Depending on how early in lifetime the diarrhea occurs, there will be different strategies to tackle the situation.
  2. Cow has mastitis in all quarters. Colostrum may not be available for the calf.

Your local vet may help manage these scenarios, or if you still need help you may email us on

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