Calves need specialist care, raising them in a protected environment ensures the attention they need.
They're the babies of the farm and capable of charming anyone with their inquisitive and playful nature. The youngsters will play an important part in the future of the herd and the farm team takes looking after them very seriously.
Many dairy farmers raise their calves in a special area of the farm, where they are given additional dedicated care to ensure they reach peak condition in a protected environment. "This allows the farmer to give them the care and attention they need and the calves can play with their friends in a safe environment," says Matt Dobbs, a specialist dairy farm vet.
During the first 24 hours, newborn calves are fed colostrum, the important nutrient-rich milk from their mothers. Matt Dobbs says: "The first hours of a calf's life are very important. It's during this time that the calf can suckle the first milk that the cow produces. Colostrum is a rich source of energy and it also contains all the antibodies that help protect the calf from disease in its first days and weeks of life."
Mother and calf
Experts recommend that calves are separated from their mothers as soon as possible, as this minimises stress to mother and calf.
Calves continue to receive milk for several weeks after birth. During this time they are gradually introduced to other foods, with nutritionists and vets helping the farmer to develop a diet plan suited to the calves' age and size. After weaning, female dairy calves are generally reared to join the milking herd.
Nature means that around half of the calves born are male – these are called bull calves.
Male calves obviously are not raised to join the milking herd, so they can either be reared for beef or veal. Figures suggest more than three quarters of male dairy calves are reared for beef in the UK.Where no other viable option exists, very regretfully, bull calves are culled.