From newborn to puberty

Promoting calf immunity, development, and health through well-developed nutritional management


  • A.J. Fischer-Tlustos University of Guelph, Department of Animal Biosciences, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1
  • D. L. Renaud Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1
  • M. A. Steele University of Guelph, Department of Animal Biosciences, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1



dairy heifer, colostrum, plane of nutrition, weaning


Proper nutritional management during the first year of the calf’s life is essential in maximizing health and productivity. Feeding a sufficient volume of colostrum early in life is crucial to ensure the transfer of passive immunity and research has begun to characterize the additional bioactive compounds in colostrum and transition milk that can benefit calf development. We know that it is important to feed elevated levels of whole milk or milk replacer during the initial weeks of life, when starter intake is negligible, but further research regarding the effects of feeding large volumes of traditional milk replacers compared to whole milk on calf metabolism, health and development is required. When elevated levels of milk are fed preweaning, calves are often susceptible to production challenges during weaning, which can be mitigated by weaning gradually and later in life. It is also becoming clear that postweaning diets, which are often overlooked, can have profound effects on heifer growth and reproductive development. It is clear that a multitude of differing strategies to raise dairy calves exist; yet, it is up to the dairy research and industry communities to educate producers on specific practices that will maximize heifer development, immunity, health and ultimately the profitability of their operations.






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