By Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita plus dairy youngstock technical specialistThe ideal dairy calf and also heifer raisers place substantial value on understanding the birthweight the calves. Birthweight is the beginning point for knowing exactly how to control variation in response to quantity of milk fed also as allowing producers come accurately calculation calf growth. 

Weighing calvesWeighing newborn calves is not the most basic task to attain on most farms. First, an invest in a digital platform range is necessary. This scale have to be committed to weighing newborns only. Sweet newborn calves ~ above a clean platform range shortly ~ birth. Document the weight, ID, time of birth, dam, and also date top top a data catch form. Some producers room using RFID to scan calf weight, ID, date, and also time straight into DairyComp 305. 

A simple, open-platform range is desired over a scale supplied for older calves. Some producers use an easy-to-clean poly garden dare to wheel calves top top the scale. Be certain the dare is tared ~ above the scale. A common source of error is weighing calves ~ colostrum has actually been fed (subtract 9 pounds if calves space fed a gallon the colostrum). Digital scales deserve to be sensitive to moisture; be sure the scale electronics are sealed and also kept dry. 

VariationCalf bear bodyweight have the right to vary through as lot as 60 pounds in a common Holstein herd v the median newborn heifer calf weighing 85 pounds. Sources of bear bodyweight variation encompass twins, season the calving, calving early, heifer dams, and also use that calving lull bulls. The graph below demonstrates sport in average birth bodyweight in the food of a year ~ above one huge Wisconsin dairy. The typical birth bodyweight because that the year to be 82.9 pounds v calves born in December and also January averaging 75.5 pounds (9 percent less).

Average birth bodyweight throughout a year top top a Wisconsin dairy products farm.

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Using the dataKnowing birth bodyweight helps producers dial in their nutrition program to minimization over- or underfeeding calves. The an initial two weeks have actually a large impact on calf growth. Overfeeding calves put calves at danger for nutritional scours and also increases the incidence that complications, such as systemic infection and respiratory disease. Underfeeding calves limits their capacity to grow and maintain health. 

Targeting a feeding price of 1.3 come 1.6 percent the bodyweight in milk solids (4 come 5 quarts of milk per day) in the first 10 come 14 days gives calves with sufficient nutrition without overfeeding milk. Having a small calf/big calf program based on birth bodyweight has actually been effective in decreasing variation in the feeding program. Because that example, if 85 pounds is the average birth bodyweight, then calves weighing much less than 85 pounds are fed 4 quarts every day while calves above 85 pounds are fed 5 to 6 quarts the milk every day. After job 14, most healthy and balanced Holstein calves have the right to handle 6 quarts every day.

EvaluationWeigh calves at the finish of the nursery step to advice nutrition and also management in your calf program. Average daily gain (ADG) is the major measure provided to screen the nursery program. Calf growth is a reflection of calf health, nutrition, management and the environment. Birth bodyweight is subtracted from calf weight at the end of the nursery phase.


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The remainder is then divided by the variety of days in the nursery step to calculation ADG (pounds per day). Aim for at least 1.5 pounds per day v 56 days, v closer come 1.6 pounds every day as the right target.