Updated: July 29, 2021
By Sarah Potts

Dairy Calves and Heifers

Raising a calf from birth to first calving is typically the second or third greatest expense on the dairy.  As a dairy producer, it can be difficult to keep a close eye on the animals on the farm that are seemingly lower maintenance than your lactating cows.  However, it is important to remember that calves and heifers are the future of herd, so their management should be viewed as an investment, not an obligation. 

Good health and nutrition management of calves beginning at birth can pay dividends later down the road.  Research shows that animals who get sick during the early days or months of life often do not grow or milk as well as their counterparts as they mature and enter the milking herd.  Research also indicates that growth rate, particularly during the pre-weaning period, is associated with first lactation milk production.  Thus, setting your mature cows up for success really begins long before she is bred for the first time or enters the milking string.  Here you will find information pertinent to building and fine-tuning a sound calf and heifer program.


  • Colostrum: Getting Calves off to a Good Start

    Delivery of sufficient, high-quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth is critical for getting calves off to a good start and ensuring their future success in the herd.

    Newborn Dairy Calf
  • Do your heifers measure up? Tips for Evaluating your Heifer Program

    Raising a replacement heifer to first calving is often the second or third largest expense on the dairy. Thus, it is important to fine-tune the heifer program to optimize heifer productivity and economic return.

  • Do pre-weaned calves need forage?

    While it has been demonstrated that feeding hay is not needed to support adequate rumen development before weaning, there are some occasions when feeding a small amount of forage before weaning may be beneficial.

    Dairy Calves
  • Group Housing of Pre-weaned Calves: Yay or Nay?

    Recent research suggests numerous benefits to housing pre-weaned calves in small groups, such as improved starter grain intake and greater social flexibility.

    Group Housing Dairy Calves
  • Managing Heifer Inventory on the Dairy

    Improvements in pre-weaned calf management, heifer nutrition, and reproductive management have enabled dairy producers to maintain herd size while raising fewer replacements than in years past.

    Dairy cow


Dairy Calf Management, Birth to Weaning
Sarah Potts

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