As operations grow, or focus more on the milking herd, it has become a necessary component in moving newborn calves from the farm to a separate calf raising facility, some being out of state. Handling and transporting these calves can be stressful. However, there is limited research on the impact of long-distance travel on a newborn calf’s welfare.
Hoof health is essential for not only the overall health of the animal, but also for her welfare. Digital dermatitis (DD), or hairy heel warts, is an extremely painful condition for dairy cattle, reducing their ability to walk to and from the milking parlor, or to the feed bunk. Based on USDA NAHMS 2017 data, 16.8% of all cows and 2.6% of bred heifers have lameness on a dairy operation.
With the cost to raise a dairy replacement being more than to purchase one, farmers must be diligent in raising a dairy replacement to enter the milking string at the optimal time and weight to reduce rearing costs and increase productivity. Numerous studies recommend the optimal age at first calving (AFC) is 24 months of age. Any delay past 24 months will add an additional $2.50, or more, a day to the cost of raising replacements as well as require more heifers to meet the herd replacement needs.