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Rearing healthy calves begins with a careful selection process.

Rearing healthy calves begins with a careful selection process. 

Ideally you want to be able to buy from as few suppliers as possible and from those who have good feeding and management practices on their farm including vaccinating their herd against rotavirus.

Ask about the farm’s colostrum management practices and how they ensure that a calf receives adequate colostrum within the first 12 hours after birth. If the Serum Total Protein (STP) or Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is known for a calf at the time of sale, it is worth paying more for these calves because good levels will protect calves from disease during the first month of life.

At purchase, check calf navels, which should be clean and dry with no sign of infection or inflammation (e.g. swelling, pus or scabs). A wet navel indicates a calf is under 24 hours old and therefore too young to purchase (a calf should be more than 4 days old before it’s moved).

Also check eyes, ears, feet and tails (look for scours) to ensure animals are in good health before they enter your rearing facility and ask about antibiotic treatments (if any). To prevent infection, the navel should be treated with an approved iodine solution immediately after birth and following transportation. If possible, check for signs of iodine treatment (e.g. yellow hair around the navel).


Transportation can be stressful for calves and detrimental to their health. Drive with care when calves are in tow, provide them with enough space to lie down and a clean, dry, draft-free environment, and handle calves gently upon arrival.

If a calf is dehydrated after coming from a sales yard or a long journey, it is recommended that an electrolyte , such as Novolyte (approx. 4L), is offered for the first feed. If a calf is sourced locally, the first feed should be milk.

  • Twins
  • Freebies
  • Calves that have been treated with antibiotics
  • Mixing age groups of calves
  • The umbilical cord is dry
  • The calves’ eyes are not sunken
  • The ears are not droopy
  • The calves were >35-40kg at 4 four days old (excluding Jersey and Jersey-cross calves)
  • The calves received colostrum