Better Choices

Handy Animal Production Tips

September Animal Health with M. & P. Jolly, Birchip & Donald


When rearing calves it is critical to ensure calf health to reduce the incidence of disease and death at this challenging time.

Calf nutrition is also important to ensure good growth and promote healthy rumen development. Rumen development has a life-long effect on the ability of that animal to convert feed efficiently - essential for setting-up heifers for a productive life in the cow herd.

There are 3 phases that directly affect calf health & rumen development

1. Liquid or milk feeding phase

  • Colostrum: Ensure each calf receives at least 10-12% (of body-weight) of good quality colostrum in the first 12 hours of birth via stomach tube and another 10-12% within 24 hrs of birth via teat feed.
  • Milk Fortifiers & Calf Milk Replacers (CMR): Ensure the milk temperature & time of feeding is consistent every day.

Do not change milk fortifiers or CMR during this phase.

  • It is important to provide fresh, clean water and palatable good quality hay from day 1.

2. Transition feeding phase

  • Introduction of calf feed: Use a high protein (no urea), high energy, balanced supplement such as CopRice Premium Calf Pellets for the first 12 weeks. Ensure there is unlimited quality hay on offer.
  • Concentrate feeding enhances rumen development by stimulating growth of rumen papillae. This increases the surface area of the rumen, thereby improving the calf's ability to absorb nutrients to support immune function and growth.

3. Ruminant Phase

  • Weaning time and consuming solid feed: Ensure calves are eating at least 1kg of concentrates per day for 3 consecutive days.
  • Initially intakes will be low when weaned however, intake will double within a couple of days.

Risky Situations

  • Calf has not received colostrum, has received insufficient or poor quality colostrum: These calves will have very poor immunity against disease and infection.
  • Poor sanitation: Lack of attention to hygiene in the calving area &/or calf pens can lead to a high load of infectious disease (eg. Coronavirus, Rotavirus, E.Coli, Salmonella).


Please seek veterinary advice for accurate diagnosis

  • Scours: Diarrhoea varies in colour depending on type of infection.
  • Dehydrated: Conduct pinch test, if skin returns quickly calf is not dehydrated
  • Weight loss, appears depressed, reduced feed intake, lying down
  • Pneumonia... Discharge from nose & eyes, coughing, high temperature, breathing & pulse rate


  • Rehydration: Use products containing electrolytes and glucose to assist rehydration of calves. Products such as Vy'trate and Pronto are available from your local branch.


  • Vaccination: Vaccinating the cow in late pregnancy for E.Coli (Bovac) or Salmonella (Bovillis S) will provide high levels of antibodies in the colostrum and prove beneficial to the health of the calf.
  • Ensure calves have a clean, dry shelter with no draughts. Reduce exposure to weather extremes.
  • Thoroughly clean & disinfect pens, sheds and shelters.
  • Keep rodents & birds out of calf feed (as they carry infectious diseases).
  • Minimise stress & avoid overcrowding


Along with a good start to the season comes animal health and nutritional challenges most notably worm control and maintaining/improving condition on maturing Autumn pastures.

Good nutrtion is essential for optimum reproductive performance. The number of lambs marked per joined is the key profit driver for any sheep breeding enterprise and it all starts at joining.

Attention to ewe nutrition starts after weaning!

Energy requirements are significantly reduced when milk production ceases, however the key to ovulation and to improve your reproductive performance is to ensure your ewes are in optimum body condition score at joining.

Causes of low reproductive rates:

Low Condition Score

  • The higher the condition score of ewes at joining, the higher the potential number of lambs. The average response is about 20 extra lambs born/100 ewes for an additional CS (8 to 10kg) at joining (Lifetime Wool Project).
  • Maiden ewes must reach at least 85 per cent of their adult body weight to maximise chance of conception.

Heavy Worm Burden

  • Dry matter intake is reduced.
  • High worm populations 'pinch' nutrients that the ewes would otherwise use to grow.
  • Worms damage the lining of the intestinal tract, protein is lost by seepage across the damaged intestinal walls.
  • Extra protein is diverted away from growing, towards to immune response to repair the damaged intestinal walls.

Ram Fertility

  • Over fat rams can have reduced fertility due to the fat surrounding the testes interfering with cooling. They also tend to be unfit due to lack of exercise.
  • Hot climatic conditions can disrupt sperm production in the ram and result in non viable sperm.
  • Elevated body temperatures can also be caused by disease, infection (foot abscess)(grain poisoning).
  • Sperm development in rams takes 49 days. Ensure your rams are in good health nutrition when semen is produced before joining is completed.

Animal Health

Conduct a worm egg count

  • To determine numbers and types of worms present
  • Use an effective drench as per WEC and larval differentiation results


Protein Supplementation

  • Cottonseed Meal contains 43% CP almost half of which is 'bypass' protein. Bypass protein is a very efficient form of protein and nutrients that microbial protein cannot provide.

Mineral Supplementation

  • Zinc is important for sperm production development. Reproducing males require approx 65% more zinc than what is required for maintenance. Zinc is also very beneficial for hoof hardening and repair.
  • Selenium is important for optimum immunity and embryonic protection post joining.
  • Low manganese levels may result in depressed or delayed oestrus in ewes.
  • Integrated Stockfeeds Sheep Booster loose lick will supply good levels of protein (Cottonseed Meal & NPN), minerals, vitamins and Rumensin (a rumen modifier proven to boost feed conversion efficiency).
  • Supplamins Pasture Boost contains a complete range of minerals, Bovatec (Rumen Modifier).
  • Pasture 16 blocks also provide elevated mineral and vitamin levels.
  • Multimin for sheep is an injectable solution which will provide selenium, zinc and manganese.

The material reproduced above has been taken from The Buloke Times. Bayer Australia Limited does not warrant the accuracy or content of the material and it is reproduced here solely for information purposes


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