Animal Health Diagnostic Center

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New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program


herd health Farm-specific herd health plans are good preventive medicine

Herd Health


Welcome to the Doe Farm

Doe Farm

Maternity Pen and Pre-weaned calf area

Small maternity penThis is a small family farm maintained in the traditional style. There is one maternity/sick pen at one end of the barn that can maximally hold two cows. For the most part cows freshen in the maternity pen. Exceptions include summer freshening on pasture; when the pen is occupied with two cows, when the pen is occupied with sick cow(s) or when there is an excess of calves. If a close-up cow goes unnoticed in their tie stalls they may freshen on the platform floor. Therefore, some calves are born in the gutter. The calves nurse their dams initially, which may be as long as 8 hours, if on pasture or unattended in the barn. Somewhere between one and 8 hours the calf is taken to the other end of the barn where there is an “L”-shaped wing which functions as a bedded pack, where the calves are tied. Here, they may receive colostrum by stomach tube, if the herdsman thinks the calf did not get enough colostrum naturally. The calves are carefully tended and are fed whole milk from a nipple pail until they are taught to drink from a bucket at approximately two weeks. The whole milk fed is either strippings, waste or treated milk, with milk going into the tank providing the remainder. The barn uses a pipeline milking system—sort of a ‘60’s design.

Large maternity penThe calves are kept relatively clean and considerable skill is evident in raising them. However, the pack is generally spongy and damp. It is cleaned out when it reaches about a foot in depth. The owner says he has some problems with scours and pneumonia, but the calves seem to respond to routine treatments with antibiotics and fluids. There is no facility for sick calves. Overflow can occur when larger calves fill up the pen and new calves are too small to crowd into the area with the older ones. In that case, the newborn is tied in front of the cows. Somewhere around 8 weeks of age, depending on the season and the crowding issue, the calves are moved to an adjoining barn.

Additional management practices:

  • Colostrum is readily fed from one cow to several calves, as needed, but it is not frozen and saved. The owner says he knows which older cows give the 'best' milk and he uses that as much as he can.
  • At milking time, buckets of milk are set at the edge of the calf pen to put into nipple pails to feed the calves after milking. While there, chaff and manure spatters can be seen lying on the cream layer. The cats line up and wait for these buckets to drink out of them.
  • Nipple pails are rinsed out after feeding and, more or less, carefully washed. There is no cleaning between calves.
  • It is obvious that the calves receive priority care as supervised by the wife of the senior owner. However, most calf feeding is done by the grandchildren. Especially in the winter, it is difficult to keep the calves feet and legs clean as the pack builds up. Calf hutches have been suggested, but the owners site inconvenience in caring for them in bad weather.
  • Calves are routinely dehorned at four week of age by the veterinarian, using Roberts Gouge Dehorners.

Management Areas of the Doe Farm: