Dehydration of newborn calves issue

Northern research focusing on calf loss


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Some newborn calves in northern Queensland are dying of dehydration. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

Some newborn calves in northern Queensland are dying of dehydration. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

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Should we be replacing cows who don't produce enough milk for calves?

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 Newborn calf nutrition was a major focus at last week’s Calf Alive Symposium.

Two speakers heavily focused on the topic with doctor Tom Kasari, United States Department of Agriculture addressing the crowd on making strong week-old calves and Jarud Muller, DAF, Charters Towers speaking about the hydration issues in newborn calves.

Doctor Kasari summarised American research from a 2007 survey, which covered neonatal (first 28 days of life), prenatal (from time cows go out to bulls until they calve), and natal (first day of life) losses. 

He said in prenatal losses, they recorded 7.5 per cent calf losses in cows and 16.8pc in heifers. 

Natal losses saw 3.2pc in cows, 6.5pc in heifers and neonatal saw 2.4pc in both cows and heifers. 

“A thin cow begets a weak calf,” Dr Karari said.  “A compromised nutritional state during last trimester of gestation adversely affects calf health at the time of calving and on through to weaning.” 

Dr Kasari also emphasised the importance of cow and heifer health heading into breeding. 

Meanwhile, Mr Muller spoke about dehydration issues in newborn calves in the tropics.

He said in hotter conditions at 39 degrees Celsius, calves needed up to six litres of milk per day. 

“Two thirds of calf losses are in first week of birth,” Mr Muller said of north Queensland. 

“Cow nutrition is critical to milk production.”

He said environmental stresses and nutritional availability needed to be taken into consideration when culling cows who failed to rear a calf. 

“If your Landcruiser runs out of diesel, do you buy a new vehicle?” he said. 

“If we aim to manage our cows so calves are receiving adequate milk in first week of life, it is a more targeted, cost effective way to boost calf survival.”

Mr Muller will be continuing his research into calf dehydration losses in northern Queensland. Anyone with any input can contact him through DAF. 

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