Achieving well-grown replacement heifers

Leah vaccinating calves

While mating is in full swing and keeping everyone very busy, it is still important your calves are not forgotten. Setting and following a program for your calves helps build a healthy and well-grown group of replacement heifers. The focus at this time of the year needs to be on vaccinations, drenches and tracking how well they are growing. At Franklin Vets, we are happy to help you develop a healthy calf program, tailored to meet your farming and animal health needs.

It is important that your calves receive a Clostridial vaccination as part of their vaccine program. Many calves will have had their first vaccination for this at the time of disbudding. A booster is needed 4-6 weeks later to complete the vaccine course. The first Lepto vaccination can be given at the same time along with their first drench and weight check. This allows you to get everything done in one go rather than bringing them in multiple times. We can weigh, vaccinate and drench your calves for you. Or, if you prefer to do the drench yourself, give us a call and book in your vaccinations for the same time. The next Lepto vaccination is due 6 weeks later which should also align with their next drench and weight check. Any other vaccines necessary can then also be given at that stage such as vaccinating for BVD.

Calves need to be drenched using a combination drench. A single-action drench will not treat both Cooperia and Teladorsagia spp. which are the target worms at this age. Using a triple or dual active also reduces the risk of developing drench resistance by maximizing the number of worms targeted. Any worms that are resistant to one type of drench will hopefully be taken out by the other, leaving a minimal amount of resistant worms behind. Both oral and injectable dual active drenches are available. There is also the option to use an injectable drench combined with B12 and Selenium, ensuring your calves are getting everything possible to help them achieve good health. At Franklin Vets a full drench program can be developed as part of a healthy calf plan for your farm. Contact us to discuss the best option for your farm.

While you have your calves in for vaccinating and drenching it is an ideal time to also weigh them. Drenching to accurate weights is safer for your calves and again helps to reduce the rate at which resistance develops. Worms in under-dosed calves will not all be killed and any that survive will have only been exposed to small amounts of drench. This speeds up the development of drench resistant worms and reduces the future efficacy of the drenches you are using.

Weighing will not only allow you to more accurately drench, but also to correctly gauge which calves are ready to be weaned or split into weight appropriate mobs. This allows you to focus on the lighter group that may need preferential feeding. Weighing would ideally be done at every visit but at a minimum should be done at weaning, then 6 weeks later to evaluate growth rate after having adjusted to being taken off milk and moved to grass and meal. Poor weight gain at this stage increases the likelihood of disease and susceptibility to worms. Calves should then be weighed again at least every 3 months to see that any problems you have addressed have been fixed and calves are achieving their target weight gain. Following this program will allow you to identify and address any problems early, rather than waiting until they come back from grazing as in-calf heifers and it’s too late. Franklin Vets offer weighing services to help you monitor the performance of your young stock. This service can be fully tailored to suit your needs so contact your local Franklin Vets team to book your next weight check.

Stephanie Wallace, Vet Technician – Franklin Vets Paeroa


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