Keep suckler calf deaths under 5%

Calf mortality should be less than 5% on suckler farms. If it is higher than this on your farm, ask yourself why.


Encourage the cow to lick the calf. Cows generally become very agitated directly after calving, so leave the cow and calf on their own to bond for 20 minutes.

This will allow the cow to calm down and lick the calf, before it suckles the cow.

Heifers need to be watched closely at calving, and need to be given time to bond with their calf.

If the cow fails to lick the calf, give it a brisk rub down with clean hay or straw, when the cow is secured.

Disinfect the navel of the calf after birth with iodine to prevent navel ill and joint ill. This should only be carried out when the cow is still secured in a calving gate or shed, away from the calf.

The entire navel cord should be sprayed with iodine.


Cow’s colostrum is an excellent source of antibodies (passive immunity), heat and energy for the new born calf.

If possible, clean down the cow’s teats, to ensure they are free of dirt, cuts or abrasions.

Encourage the calf to suckle, to receive his first feed.

Calves require at least 10% of their bodyweight in colostrum in the first 12 hours of life.

Ideally, calves should get three litres within an hour of birth, and a further three litres within six hours.

Have colostrum available for emergencies, in case cows or heifers have a very small amount available.

It can be stored in two-litre plastic milk containers.

Slow thawing, in a water bath at a temperature under 50 degrees centigrade, is recommended.

Overheating will damage the protein content of the colostrum.

Never use a microwave to defrost or warm colostrum.

When the colostrum is lukewarm, it can be given via a small bucket with a plastic teat, or by stomach tube.

Caution is urged if using a stomach tube, as it may result in your calf drowning, if it is not used properly. Ask your vet if you are not sure.

BVD Tagging

Take the BVD tissue sample as soon as possible after calving, when the calf has fed, and is dry. Ensure the cow is safely away from the calf, when you are tagging.

Tissue samples should be kept in cold storage until posting to an approved laboratory.


Always have a dry, clean bed of straw in place for new-born or very young calves. It will provide heat and comfort for the young calf.

Clean, dry bedding is essential, wherever your calf is housed. If you get down on your knees, and your knees get wet, it is time to add more straw for a new bed, or clean out what is there already.

After a few days, the calf and cow can be returned to slats and creep areas, or released outdoors.

Thoroughly clean, power wash and disinfect the calving box after each calving.


We need lots of Vitamin A and D. Liver from lamb, beef, pork and poultry are all rich sources of both Vitamin A and D which work together to boost our resistance.Darina Allen: Let’s concentrate on food that helps to strengthen our immune system

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