Cattle (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB7949)

Section 2 - Calf rearing


Feed, water and other substances

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) Schedule 4, paragraph 11, states that:-

each calf shall receive bovine colostrum as soon as possible after it is born and in any case within the first six hours of life.

Schedule 4, paragraph 12 states that:

(1) All calves shall be provided with food which contains sufficient iron to ensure a blood haemoglobin level of at least 4.5mmol/litre.

(2) A minimum daily ration of fibrous food shall be provided for each calf over 2 weeks old, the quantity being raised in line with the growth of the calf from a minimum of 100g at 2 weeks old to a minimum of 250g at 20 weeks old.

Schedule 4, paragraph 13 states that calves shall not be muzzled.

Schedule 4, paragraph 14 states that:

(1) All calves shall be fed at least twice a day.

(2) Where calves are housed in a group and do not have continuous access to feed, or are not fed by an automatic feeding system, each calf shall have access to food at the same time as the others in the feeding group.

Schedule 4, paragraph 15 states that:

(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, all calves shall be provided with a sufficient quantity of fresh drinking water each day.

(2) Calves shall be provided with fresh drinking water at all times -

(a) in hot weather conditions, or

(b) when they are ill.

103. Bovine colostrum is essential to protect the calf against infectious disease. Ideally calves should be left with their dam for at least 12 and preferably 24 hours after birth. It is recommended that the calf should continue to receive colostrum from its mother for the first three days of life. Allowing the calf to suckle naturally may be the best way to make sure that it gets enough colostrum. However, you should supervise suckling carefully and ensure that the udder is clean before the calf sucks. If the calf is unable to suck, colostrum should be given by a suitably trained person using a stomach tube. When there is any doubt about the quantity or quality of colostrum that is available from the cow, you should give it to the calf by teat feeder or stomach tube from another source within six hours of its birth. A store of frozen or some other form of colostrum should be kept on the farm for use in emergencies.
104. Removing the calf earlier than 12-24 hours after birth should only be done for disease control purposes, under the advice of a veterinary surgeon and the protocol should be recorded in the health and welfare plan. These calves should still be fed colostrum. In some circumstances, such as in the control of Johnes disease, the use of pooled colostrum may promote the transfer of infection. In such cases, to prevent the risk of the spread of infection in the herd, you should ensure that each calf receives colostrum only from its dam or if this is not possible, only from a single animal.
105. You can increase the value of colostrum by specific vaccination of the cow or colostrum donor. In high-yielding dairy cows, you may find that the concentration of antibodies in colostrum is diluted. You should get advice from your veterinary surgeon on ways to improve colostrum to protect calves against infectious diseases.
106. You should not offer milk from cows treated with antibiotics or those being treated for mastitis to calves fed on whole milk.
107. In artificial calf-rearing systems, it is better for the calf to drink from, or be able to reach a dummy teat. Fresh water should be available in the pen. All calves should receive liquid food every day during their first four weeks of life and, in any case, until they are eating enough solid food.
108. When calves are put on unlimited milk-feeding diets, you should make sure that they have enough teats to avoid undue competition and watch them carefully to check that they are all feeding properly. You should take the same care when you introduce solid food, as and when the calves want it.
109. You should wean suckler calves so that it causes as little stress as possible to both cows and calves. You should take particular care of newly-weaned suckling calves and keep them in groups of familiar animals to avoid fighting and cross-contamination. If you have to mix some of the animals, to minimise disease you should make sure that the environment does not stress the calves.
110. You should avoid the routine early weaning of suckled beef calves (at two to three months old) as it can increase the post weaning growth check and thus reduce their resistance to disease. Weaned calves must always have access to fresh forage and weaner mix. You should replace the feed each day so that the food is fresh and appetising. Weaning at between six and nine months of age is recommended, although earlier weaning is acceptable for suckler calves where the cows health or body condition is poor.
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