Health management and welfare of young dairy animals – impact on antibiotic use


Good husbandry practices are an important contributor to animal health on the farm. Young dairy animals that are cared for appropriately are in a better state to combat their ailments, thus reducing need for antibiotics. At the heart of all these challenges is the overall benefit of keeping calves feeling well.  The International Dairy Federation has developed a set of health recommendations regarding the welfare of young dairy animals to minimise the use of antimicrobials. Calving areas should have high standards of hygiene, be sheltered, and have appropriate bedding. An appropriate birthing plan should consider issues such as choice of sire; safe birthing facilities; and regular checking of animals to ensure prompt, experienced help is available if needed. Newborn dairy animals must receive adequate colostrum, both quantity and quality. The frequency of inspection of stock will depend on the circumstances and management systems. More than one daily inspection is particularly important in the case of animals close to giving birth, newborn, and newly weaned calves. If disbudding is performed, should be done before 2 months of age and follow appropriate birthing and weaning practices. Calves should not be offered for sale until they are sufficiently hardy to be transported. Adequate body weight and dry navel are good indicators. Appropriate transport conditions stipulated in national welfare regulations or codes of practice should be followed.