Calf Care Requirements and Recommendations

Exploring options and regulations in the United States, Canada, and Europe

by Grace Kline

To ensure proper animal husbandry, guidelines have been established to create a uniform standard of care within each respective country or union. Those guidelines will be reviewed below, along with links to various informative websites if you wish to continue your research.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m here to remind you once again that calf care is an extremely important aspect of your dairy. The calves are the next generation of your herd. The quality of care (or lack thereof) determines their performance in your milking herd. So, if you want healthy cows that milk well and breed back year after year, you must start by keeping your young herd healthy.

United States

Every 3 years in the United States, the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program is updated. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020, the update was extended. Now, all updates will be put into effect on July 1st instead of January 1st. Version 5 will go into effect on July 1st, 2024.

Before we get into the updates, FARM has released an Evaluation Prep Guide to help farmers understand what changes they will need to make. Please check out the link so you can best prepare for any evaluations you may have if you are a part of the FARM program.

There are not many updates from Version 4 of the FARM program to Version 5. Here are the few to note:

  1. In addition to a minimum of 95% of your herd scoring below a 2 on the locomotion score card provided by FARM, a minimum of 85% of your herd must score 1 or less. This applies to your lactating herd. Locomotion score cards are used to monitor any lameness or difficulty walking within your herd.
  2. Pain mitigation for disbudding has been discussed in a previous Calf-Tel blog, which you can find here. It is not something we should ignore, as disbudding is a very stressful event. Version 5 has upgraded their improvement opportunity from a continuous action plan to a mandatory improvement plan. This means that you will not have up to 3 years to complete this change, but only 9 months. If you’re not sure what steps to take, consult your veterinarian. In Version 4, the method in which disbudding takes place was not specified, however in Version 5 it is recommended that farmers use a paste or a butane burner.
  3. Even if calves are not staying on the farm, FARM advises feeding high quality colostrum to all calves in a timely fashion. The updated version states that a colostrumeter or any other form of colostrum quality measurement can be used, and the amount should be at least 10% of the calf’s bodyweight. It can be demonstrated by record keeping or keeping evidence of bloodwork done to ensure the calf maintained a successful transfer of passive immunity.
  4. Both euthanasia and job specific continuing education have been upgraded from a continuous action plan to a mandatory action plan, meaning that you have only 9 months to demonstrate that these protocols have been implemented on your farm. To complete euthanasia, you must have 2 individuals and provide a method and confirmation of death. This can mean that you and another employee put down a calf and agree that the animal is dead by listening for a heartbeat.

Farms that are members or ship milk to any organization that has signed a FARM Animal Care Participation Agreement will be subject to evaluations and any second- or third-party evaluations to remain sure the guidelines are being followed.


In 2023, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle was released. To view the publication, visit the National Farm Animals Care Council website and select your viewing preference. This Code of Practice serves as Canada’s rules and guidelines for farm animal care.

New research has been conducted showing the benefits of paired calf housing. Paired calf housing can help to reduce stress in calves and increase starter intake. You can read interviews from farmers using paired calf housing in another Calf-Tel blog, “Are Calves Better Together?” Because of this research, Calf-Tel has begun manufacturing products that make it easier for farmers to pair calves together in a way that is both sanitary and efficient. To view paired calf housing options, visit Calf-Tel’s website under the Social Calf Housing tab.

Requirements for calf housing in Canada include having proper space for each calf to stand up and lie down comfortably, reducing instances of tethering, and allowing calves to have social contact. Calves being housed inside are no longer able to be tethered. Calves being housed outside can be tethered specifically with a collar, only if the tether allows the calf to walk outside their hutch and socialize with other calves. Calves being housed outdoors must be able to have physical contact with other calves. By April 2031, calves being housed indoors must be in social housing as part of a new regulation. By 4 weeks of age, healthy calves should be housed together.

As a general rule of thumb, I keep my own calves at 12%-13% solids in the summer and 14% solids in the winter to help with cold stress. This is what works in our herd with our milk replacer. To find what will work best for you, consult a calf nutritionist familiar with your milk replacer, and even your veterinarian. Check out this Calf-Tel blog, “Milk Replacer Management” to help prepare you for those conversations. Providing adequate water at these percentages is essential for proper digestion. Canadian regulations require that newborn calves be offered at least 15% of their birth weight up to a week old, around 6 liters for Holsteins. At 7-28 days, calves should be given 20% of their birth weight, around 8 liters for Holstiens. From then on, calves should be offered up to 10 liters to promote high daily gains, aiming for 2.2 pounds per day.

A proper veterinary client patient relationship is crucial for herd health on your dairy. Your relationship with your vet will help you make transitions in calf housing, make sure your calves are getting enough nutrition, and properly diagnose illnesses. For assistance in diagnosing a suspected illness on farm, you can view this Calf Health Scoring Chart.


Care4Dairy lists European best practices in multiple categories in easy-to-read formats. We will also refer to Council Directive 2008/119/EC. Under calf nutrition, we see that if a calf is not able to nurse of their mother or a foster cow, it is recommended that milk or milk replacer is fed a minimum of 4 times a day, the maximum time between feeding being 8 hours. Calves are also weaned much later, at 12-17 weeks rather than 8 weeks. This is to help reduce stress during weaning and reduce instances of post weaning weight loss. Calves should be exposed to water or electrolytes at all times after the age of 2 weeks to encourage proper digestion of the feed.

Calves should be housed in groups, to allow for social interaction and exercise. If calves are to be kept individually, they should be able to see other calves and have tactile contact unless they are being separated for medical reasons. Calf housing materials should not be porous, and allow for easily cleaning and disinfecting. Tethering is not permitted in either indoor or outdoor housing. Calves also must be inspected at least twice a day to check for any illness or injury that may occur.

All calves should have enough room to stand, turn around, lie down, and groom themselves as this is normal calf behavior. In addition to this, the flooring and bedding in those housing areas should be clean and dry with enough traction to prevent any falls or slips. Proper cleaning of housing areas can be achieved by frequent washing, and the use of non-porous material. If housed indoors, ensuring calves have adequate time with the lights both on and off will encourage both eating and resting behaviors.

Standards and animal care practices vary from country to country. As long as the animals are well fed, growing and producing, different does not mean wrong. Check out the links within this blog to read more in depth about farm animal care in other parts of the world!

About the Author

Grace Kline works with her husband Jacob alongside brothers-in-law Josh and Jesse. Together, they operate Diamond Valley Dairy in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Diamond Valley is a 60-cow operation, where Grace works full time as the calf and heifer manager among many other tasks. Graduating from Morrisville State College in 2022, Grace received her Bachelor’s in Business Development and completed an internship in Wisconsin in 2021 where she spent time learning the calf operation at Budjon Farms.

Scales Mounted on a Rail System

Last We Care Wednesday we talked about the importance of weighing calves and heifers with various types of scales… here is another system used by a client in Europe to weigh calves! 🐄
These scales are mounted on a rail system mounted above the calf pens. It slides on a cable from pen to pen to weigh individual calves. 🤯
How do you weigh calves? Just like farming, there are a million ways to do it. We can’t manage what we can’t measure! 😊

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You Can’t Manage, What Isn’t Measured

One measure often used in calf rearing is average daily gain. Whether the scales are on a platform, wheels or moved with pallet forks, ease of use seems to be a critical component in whether they are used regularly or not. It is often said that you can’t manage, what isn’t measured. 🤔 Weighing calves and heifers into and out of calf rearing systems at various points in their life can help provide important management data. 😀👍🐄✨

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The Importance of Fresh Air

Fresh air is vital to calf comfort. 💨🐄There are many ways to accomplish this including, proper ventilation in calf barns, elevated platforms under hutches in drier climates, and extra vents on hutches. Even older hutches of any style can be easily retrofitted with additional vents. Regardless of the method used, it is imperative that calves have fresh, clean air. 👍

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Reusing Old Rubber Matting

Another use for old rubber matting from the dairy, is to use them in your calf hutch area. The mats are used inside the fence area to minimize mud & manure buildup! 🤯
Mats can also be used inside the hutch during the summer season. Since the mats dry quickly in the heat, the farm uses less bedding, and it provides a dry, comfortable space for calves to rest. 😀🐄👍

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Measuring and Maintaining Calf Feeding Equipment Cleanliness

Calves Feeding

By Sarah Morrison, Ph. D.

A new year means many people have already made resolutions for improvement. I am not one for resolutions but often find this time of year as a good time to reflect on what has happened in the last year and where I would like to go in the next. We often get caught up in all the hustle and bustle but sometimes we just need to go back to basics and make sure we are still doing all the “easy stuff” the way it should be done.

A key pillar of a successful calf program is maintaining the health of those young animals. Calves are the most susceptible to disease and a contributing factor to increased risk could be the hygiene standards of the farm. If improperly managed, there could be increased pathogen load and exposure. Proper management and good hygiene standards will leave your calves less susceptible to health challenges in the preweaning period.

One area to focus on in terms of hygiene standards is calf feeding equipment cleanliness. This includes buckets, nipples, bottles, esophageal tube feeders, and tubes of auto milk feeders. Each calf has direct contact with these multiple times of day and could be the perfect source of inoculation to the calf’s gastrointestinal tract if not properly cleaned and sanitized regularly.

The standard SOP for adequate cleaning of feeding equipment after every use are as follows (Stewart et al., 2005):

  1. Disassembly of the individual parts.
  2. Rinse with lukewarm water until visibly clean.
  3. Place in hot water with detergent.
  4. Scrub all surfaces (inside and outside) with a brush.
  5. Rinse with hot water containing acid sanitizer.
  6. Drain and air dry completely.

How do you determine cleanliness?

  1. Visual inspection– This is fast and convenient. It can be done routinely. However, it is very subjective and lacks the sensitivity to detect clean surfaces that are heavily contaminated.
  2. Microbiological analysis– This is a scientifically proven method but is time consuming and cannot be completed on farms. However, this would give a definitive answer of contamination on a surface, even when it appears “clean”.
  3. ATP luminometry– This is a method that quantifies the amount of ATP (energy present in every life form) into relative light units (RLU) by a chemical luminescent reaction with an enzyme. This allows for on-site assessment of cleanliness and has been commonly used in hospitals and the food industry.

A paper published in the Journal of Dairy Science (106:8885–8896) evaluated 50 commercial farms in Quebec through a questionnaire that included self-reported cleaning practices of feeding equipment. This encompassed the frequency of cleaning and replacing feeding equipment of preweaning calves, products and utensils used for cleaning and disinfecting, and the temperature of the water.

Samples from feeding equipment (buckets, nipples, bottles, esophageal tube feeders, and tubes of auto milk feeders) were evaluated by visual inspection, microbiological analysis, and two methods of ATP luminometry. Microbiological samples were taken to get total bacteria count and total coliform count. Two commercially available products were used to evaluate ATP luminometry. One was UltraSNAP (surface ATP test) and one was MicroSnap (coliform test).

In the paper of Quebec herds, there was a wide range in reported hygiene procedures of the feeding equipment. Half of the farms claimed they unscrewed the nipples before cleaning. The different utensils used were brush (68% of farms), washcloth (2%), sponge (2%), or no utensil (28%).

Only 4.3% of farms in this survey reported cleaning feeding utensils after every use.

The temperature of water used for cleaning was very hot (20% of farms), hot (56%), lukewarm (16%), and cold (8%), but no temperature was determined. The primary cleaning product used was dishwashing soap for 40% of respondents, but other soaps were used by others.

Only 40% of farms used disinfectant for feeding equipment, the most popular was sodium hypochloride (50%), followed by penta-potassium bis (peroxymonosulphate bis (sulfate), also known as Virkon (46%; Vetoquinol) and a combination of iodine with sodium hypochloride (4%).

The rinsing process, only 10% used a utensil, which was a brush. The temperature of the rinsing water was very hot (18% of farms), hot (12%), lukewarm (32%), and cold (38%).

Most equipment generally looked clean from visual inspection. All feeding equipment showed contamination, buckets, and tubes of automatic milk feeders were more contaminated compared with nipples, bottles, and esophageal tubes. High contamination of one specific piece of feeding equipment on a farm was not automatically correlated with a high contamination of other feeding equipment on that same farm. There were positive correlations between ATP luminometry and visual scores of buckets, nipples, bottles, and esophageal tubes. However, the study showed that contamination can still be present even when the feeding equipment looks ok to the naked eye.

How does your calf feeding equipment cleanliness stack up?

Sarah Morrison, Ph. D. is involved in dairy research at the W.H. Miner Institute in Chazy, NY and can be reached at

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Mineral Deficiencies in Dairy Calves

Written by Grace Kline

One of the most frustrating things I have dealt with in calf raising is being able to see a problem, but not be able to pin it down. For example, if you see a calf with a cough and a runny nose, we can easily assume she is coming down with pneumonia. However, I’m talking about a calf (or maybe a small group of calves) that are a little too quiet. These calves seem to be just surviving, not thriving. I like my calves to be aggressive and excited to see me when I walk past their hutches, so I find it alarming when I have a calf or two that couldn’t care less about my presence. This, among many other symptoms, can be due to a mineral deficiency. Before taking action, consult your vet to properly diagnose a mineral deficiency and receive the best supplements and dosage recommendations.

A story that I can share from personal experience is of an iron deficiency. When I was working on a New York dairy, we fell into what I can only describe as a death spell. The “death spell” did not discriminate between calving location, breed, or sex. The scenario would be as follows: a cow calves with a seemingly healthy calf. The cow produced a good amount of colostrum, and the calf drank the colostrum well. 12 hours later, the calf would seem lazy. 24 hours later, the calf could not stand or hold their own head up. They would wind up dead around 48 hours.

So, what went wrong?

We called the vet to bring bacteria swabs and swabbed everything. Anything that the cow, calf, or milk touched or came close to, we checked. Doing this allowed us to find areas to improve on, however it did not solve the issue. We completed 3 separate necropsies, all inconclusive. Tissue samples and test, somehow inconclusive. We heard of another farmer in the area struggling with anemic cows and thought, “what do we have to lose?” The next calf to be born, we administered a subcutaneous mineral injection and an intramuscular iron injection. This calf was the first one to be thriving at 24 hours since the beginning of our “death spell”. We had an iron deficiency, causing our calves to be weak, lazy, and anemic. Not every deficiency will look the same, but this is what we were faced with in a lack of iron.

White muscle disease can be caused by a lack of selenium, vitamin E, or a combination of the two. White muscle disease can affect both the cardiac muscles and the skeletal muscles (The Cattle Site, 2022). Early onset white muscle disease will cause scarring of the cardiac muscles making it impossible to survive. Calves with late onset white muscle disease will show symptoms such as laziness, stiffness, and struggling to move around or eat.

Calves that are deficient in manganese show a general unthriftiness, slow growth rate, and can have swollen joints. A manganese deficiency that is left untreated can cause reproductive harm in the future. Symptoms in older cattle include cystic ovaries, abortions, and weak/deformed calves.

Copper deficiencies can cause cattle to lose their color, which is especially noticeable around their eyes. Copper is especially helpful for white blood cell and immune function, as well as bone growth (Torres, 2022).

As you have probably noticed, the symptoms for each of these deficiencies are fairly similar- low growth rate, laziness, and low appetite. There are also plenty of other minerals than the ones listed above that are important, including calcium and phosphorous for bone growth and support. Other symptoms can include licking/eating dirt or other objects. It is normal for calves to play with things in their mouths, but it is not normal for them to become obsessed with eating a dish or part of their pen.

You will notice dents and scratches in their pens or buckets if they try to fulfill a deficiency on their own. Calves that are deficient will generally have dull eyes and a rough hair coat. Hair coats in calves should be full and flat, not spotty and standing on end. Working with your vet, you will be able to distinguish between any deficiency symptoms and disease symptoms.

A specific mineral deficiency can be tough to pinpoint. Deficiencies can be detected through blood and tissue samples; however, some may require samples from a necropsy after the animal has died. Your vet may recommend a well-rounded mineral supplement to touch on each of these areas. Some supplements can be added to a newborn calf protocol. Paying attention to your calves and fresh cows will help you identify patterns and enable you to give your vet the best information you can.

Grace Kline operates Diamond Valley Dairy in Southeast Pennsylvania with her husband Jacob, along with two of his brothers. They milk 60 cows in a tie stall, where Grace cares for the calves and young stock. Grace graduated from Morrisville State College in Morrisville, New York, after completing an internship on a dairy in Wisconsin where she learned many of her calf care skills.

Dairy-Cattle. “Appropriate Methods of Diagnosing Mineral Deficiencies in Cattle.”DAIReXNET, 16 Aug. 2019, e/.

Torres, Hannah. “Common Mineral Deficiencies in Cattle and Treatments – Provico Rural.” ProviCo, 14 Feb. 2022,

“White Muscle Disease.” White Muscle Disease | The Cattle Site, The Cattle Site, 29 Sept. 2022,

Hampel’s Calf-Tel Appoints Alessio Tenca as New Sales Manager for Italy

[Germantown (WI), 11.30.2023] – Hampel’s Calf-Tel, a leading name in the agricultural industry, is excited to announce the appointment of Alessio Tenca as the new Sales Manager for Italy. This move showcases the company’s commitment to strengthening its presence and enhancing customer experience in the region.

Alessio, originally from Sydney, Australia, decided to return to his homeland, Italy, in 1991. He later completed his education there. With over two decades of experience in the agricultural sector, Alessio has consistently demonstrated excellence in animal wellness and biosecurity in farming. His expertise has been instrumental in addressing challenges and driving growth in the industry.

In 2014, Alessio commenced his journey with Hampel as a dealer in Italy. His primary role was to spearhead the sales and expansion of Calf-Tel products in the country. Given his remarkable accomplishments and dedication, in 2023, Hampel provided Alessio with the unique opportunity to work directly with the team. This role would see him contributing not only in Italy but also extending his expertise across regions like the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand.

“We are thrilled to have Alessio on board in this new capacity,” said Brandon Sowder, Director of Global Business Development. “His extensive experience and deep understanding of the agricultural domain will be instrumental in propelling Calf-Tel’s vision forward. We believe that with Alessio leading the way in Italy, we are poised for unparalleled growth and success in the coming years.”

Hampel’s Calf-Tel, a division of Hampel Corporation, began serving the agriculture industry in 1981 with the introduction of Calf-Tel housing systems. Today it is the number one choice for calf housing, worldwide. For more information, visit or learn more at and

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