Dairy calf management

From feeding colostrum and weaning to monitoring growth rates and disease control, our information and resources can help you to manage your dairy calves at this crucial stage.

Rearing dairy heifer calves is the second-largest annual expense for dairy farms, accounting for about 20% of production costs. Yet heifers produce no income until they reach first lactation and, often, no profit until their second lactation. However, with the best management, they will repay the investment in rearing costs with higher milk production and a longer productive life.

Colostrum management

Learn how much colostrum to feed and when, as well as how to collect, test and feed colostrum to make sure the calf gets crucial antibodies.

Learn more about colostrum management

Feeding dairy calves

Find out why feeding 10% of calf body weight is no longer a sufficient guide to milk volumes and learn how to work out the nutrients supplied by different milk-replacer brands, plus, what a calf’s water needs are and how to successfully wean.

Find out how to feed your dairy calves

Dairy calf growth rates

Learn more about a calf’s energy needs for growing and keeping warm, as well as how to measure growth rates and why it’s important to monitor regularly.

How to achieve and monitor dairy calf growth rates

Managing calves according to weather

The ideal temperature range for calves changes at about three weeks of age and has a big effect on growth rates. This impacts how much milk to feed. Discover more about using calf jackets for cold weather and what to do in times of heat stress.

Learn about what to do in hot and cold weather to keep your dairy calves comfortable

Calf disease management

A healthy calf has the best chance of achieving its full potential as an efficient and productive dairy cow in the herd. Being able to spot common problems early is the best way to reduce the spread of disease and reduce its severity.

Find out how disease management can make sure your dairy herd achieves its full potential

Disbudding dairy calves

Disbudding calves is ideally done at 2–6 weeks of age using local anaesthesia to eliminate pain during the procedure and anti-inflammatories to reduce pain after. Making disbudding as painless as possible for all involved requires good training and an efficient protocol.

How to disbud dairy calves efficiently, easily and painlessly

An 8-step guide to disbudding a dairy calf

Useful links

Calf to calving


If you would like to order a hard copy of the following resources, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk or call 0247 799 0069:

  • Calf management guide
  • Calf weigh bands
  • Better returns from calf rearing
  • Calf rearing notebook

Good management practices 



Tackling calf pneumonia in the autumn

Maintaining consistency in youngstock