Merck Animal Health has introduced two new Dairy Care365 animal handling training video modules that focus on caring for calves. The first video module covers care and handling of the newborn calf from birth through the first two weeks of life, while the second video module addresses handling and stockmanship from weaning to the mixing pens.

“All dairies should develop protocols for handling newborn calves, as the care a calf receives has significant, long-term effects on its adult health and well-being,” says Elizabeth Adams, M.S., D.V.M., technical services manager for Merck Animal Health. “Our responsibility to care for calves begins long before they’re born, and includes prenatal care for expectant mothers. These video modules cover the gamut, from standard operating procedures for calf care to the importance of identifying and treating sick calves as early as possible.”

The newborn calf care training video was developed by Merck Animal Health with the assistance of Jim Reynolds, D.V.M., M.P.V.M., D.A.C.A.W., a professor at Western University. This video module includes navel dipping, feeding colostrum, and vaccination, along with other management practices to ensure the calf gets a healthy start.

“After delivery, the cow returns to the milking herd and the calf’s care becomes the dairy producer’s responsibility,” says Dr. Reynolds. “Calves are born with a naïve immune system, and they need to be closely watched and gently cared for by trained personnel.”

The second calf care training video module addresses proper management of weaned calves from the hutch to the group pens. It was developed with the assistance of Fred Muller D.V.M., a private practitioner from Sunnyside, Wash., who teaches calf care techniques to his clients and their employees.

This video module covers young stock handling, moving calves out of the hutch, loading, unloading and trailer safety, moving into the new group pen, pressure zones, socializing in the mixing pen, and moving and sorting groups of calves.

“When calves are weaned and moved into mixing pens, it’s like their teenage years,” says Dr. Muller. “They have a lot of energy, are exploring their new surroundings and want to socialize with new herd mates. Just like teenagers, calves need to be taught how to properly behave in a group, and it’s our responsibility to build their trust and confidence so we can work with them effectively.”

“Calves will remember the training you give them at this age,” Dr. Adams said. “The lessons they learn from their interactions with humans at this stage will be remembered as they become adults. Practicing good stockmanship and handling when calves are small will make it safer and easier for animals and employees in the future. This requires a commitment from dairy herd owners and managers to continually train and support employees in proper animal handling.”