It’s time to prepare your calving toolkit

Beef Calf Care Products

Calving season is here, so it’s time to make sure you have all the tools on hand to lay a good foundation for your next generation. Your calving toolkit likely already includes ear tags and tag markers, a calving book, and a calf puller and chains. But, what about tools that help you address the nutritional needs of your newborn calves? 

Here are several tools you should have on hand to ensure every calf gets off to a healthy start.

A tool to build their immunity

Colostrum – the first milk a cow produces after giving birth – is comprised of antibodies, growth factors, colostral fat, antimicrobials, nutrients and 200+ elements that are integral to giving your calves an optimal start.

Colostrum is essential because your calves are born with no natural immunity to the pathogens they encounter. They don’t even begin to develop their own immune system until 4-6 weeks of age, so their early immunity is derived exclusively from the colostrum they consume in their first 24 hours of life.

That immunity primarily comes from immunoglobulin G (IgG) within colostrum. IgG molecules are readily absorbed for maximum immune protection; it is the antibody most effective in providing local immunity and reducing disease associated with failure of passive transfer.

Put quality colostrum - like GENEX Foundation™ 150 - in your calving toolkit.

Ensuring a calf receives an adequate amount of quality colostrum during the first hours of life helps both optimize its growth and reduce negative health incidences and veterinary care over its lifetime. In many normal calving situations, calves receive colostrum shortly after birth directly from their dam. However, in the case of first-calf heifers, heat or cold stress or difficult birth, the dam may not produce an adequate amount or the quality of colostrum to best meet the calf’s needs. Since immunoglobulin absorption efficiency in the gut is highest during the first 4 hours of a calf’s life and then progressively declines, it is important to give the calf a quality colostrum supplement during the first hours of life if there is doubt about the quantity or quality of colostrum from the dam.

If you have any doubt about the quantity or quality of colostrum from the dam, it is particularly important that the calf receives a quality colostrum supplement during the first hours of life.

To provide your calf with the highest amount of IgG absorption from a colostrum replacer or supplement, begin by evaluating its ingredient list. Look for a product that contains natural colostral fat, which is only found in whole bovine colostrum. Products made from blood serum or whey with added vegetable fats do not provide the same benefits as colostral fat. Colostral fat is unique because it is the main nutrient that fuels immediate metabolism of brown fat to generate heat. Without colostral fat, a calf will deplete its body fat reserves within hours, heightening the risk of hypothermia. The amount of colostrum fed is positively correlated to heat production and body temperature regulation in newborn calves.

In addition, most colostrum products on the market have been stripped of many of the essential components that positively impact the calf’s health. To provide the greatest immunity and the highest quality colostrum, find a whole bovine colostrum – like our extensive SCCL colostrum lineup – that is USDA Vet Biologic certified, meaning it is tested against diseases, including Johne’s, and is regulated for quality.

Investment in a quality colostrum is an investment into your calf’s genetic potential. In one study, calves were given different volumes of colostrum at birth (as a percentage of their birth weight). Calves that received a higher volume of colostrum had higher average daily gains compared to calves that received a smaller volume of colostrum at birth (see Table 1).

Table 1. Growth and intake of dairy calves fed different volumes of colostrum at birth1

Start them off with a healthy gut

Having a high quality direct-fed microbial (DFM) in your calving toolkit means you can help your calves establish a healthy gut from the start. DFMs that contain immunoglobulin G or Y (IgG or IgY) provide beneficial, health-promoting bacteria that attach to your calf’s intestinal lining and inhibit pathogenic (bad) bacteria colonization. Consider RumiLife® PopPlus™ DFMs for calves. Packed with purpose and combined with the power of IgY, these DFMs contain 26 billion CFU (colony-forming units) of health-promoting bacteria and are sure to give your calves the power of prevention. Note this type of product aids in the immunity of a calf that has already received colostrum.

DFMs are useful beyond birth as well. As the weather warms, your calves may be exposed to new bacteria in their environment, and you may notice instances of scours. This can be caused by one or more of the following: rotavirus, coronavirus, BVD, coccidia or other parasites, E. coli, Salmonella or Clostridium perfringens. Provide DFMs to help ensure good bacteria dominate their digestive tract.

Give them the energy they need when it matters most

When a calf experiences challenges such as cold shock, illness or delayed colostrum intake, it can severely impact their energy levels. It is important to get high-quality, readily available energy into the calf as soon as possible. Push™ Calf Energy Paste makes this possible – and convenient – with a concentrated dose of energy in an easy-to-use syringe. Derived from colostral fat and other readily available energy sources, it gets calves back on their feet fast.

Products made with animal or vegetable fat are difficult for young calves to absorb, especially during times of stress. Push™ includes 51% fat and 19.5% protein, as well as beneficial B12 vitamins. The caffeine in Push™ provides an immediate source of energy, and the quality fat sources carry calves through for up to 12 hours.

Vital in times of cold shock, heat stress and health events like scours, providing a tube of high-quality energy paste will give your calves the push they need and help them reach their full genetic potential.

woman giving black calf an oral energy paste

At calving, keep their nutritional needs top of mind

Having products readily available in your calving toolkit to support their nutritional needs can lead to an easier calving season and help you get your calves off to a healthier start! Build your calving toolkit today!

Product availability differs by country. For availability information, please contact your local GENEX representative or distributor.

¹ Silva, F. L. M., Miqueo, E., Silva, M. D. da, Torrezan, T. M., Rocha, N. B., Salles, M. S. V., & Bittar, C. M. M. (2021, March 5). Thermoregulatory responses and performance of dairy calves fed different amounts of Colostrum. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from

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