Calving shed products

Preparing the Calf Shed for Calving

Getting through calving is a little like running a marathon – it can be tough at times, you need to stay mentally strong even when exhausted, and to achieve your best, preparation is key.

Firstly, organisation is essential, but this comes more naturally to some people than others. So, for those of you who struggle with this, here are a few simple practical tips:

  • Write a list of what you need to do.
  • Break down the big jobs into smaller more manageable tasks, and ask for help/advice with what you need.
  • Try to keep things in the same places in the calf shed and return them there after use.
  • Make written plans and protocols for how you want things done – for other staff or in case you get sick.
  • Use whiteboards to record any issues with the calves.

Ensure the calf shed is clean and disinfected, with all repairs and maintenance complete. The calf trailer and feeding equipment need to be clean and disinfected. Get fresh bedding into the shed. Have a plan for shelter in the outdoor paddocks if the weather turns bad. Young calves do not have a rumen to keep them warm like cows do, so we need to give them a bit more help!

Calves need to have access to clean water in every shed and paddock – this is a legal requirement and essential, even when calves are on ad-lib milk. Often troughs get leaky, so make sure repairs are sorted out well ahead of time and that any feed troughs and hay racks are positioned up high to avoid being contaminated.

What products may help you?

An emergency drug toolkit is a must around calving. Discuss the details with your vet, but you may want to include:

  • Penicillin for navels, tooth abscesses and wounds
  • Oxytetracycline for pneumonia or bacterial scour
  • An anti-inflammatory product
  • Oxytetracycline spray for wounds
  • Suitable size syringes and needles e.g. 10ml syringes and 16 + 18g needles
  • Thermometer
  • Pottles and gloves in case you need to take scour samples
  • Calf electrolytes e.g. Diarrest™ (this has high energy content per litre)
  • Neckbands and/or spray paint, notebook and pen.

Prevention suggestions:

Scour vaccines for cows, such as Rotavec® and ScourGuard®, can be invaluable in preventing rotavirus over calving. Good colostrum management is essential to enable these vaccines to work. Salvexin®+B can also be given to calves from an early age to prevent salmonella.

Multimin® – injecting 1ml as calves enter the shed on day one has been shown to boost their immune response and halve sickness and mortality.

OptiCalf® is an alumino silicate that absorbs liquids and cations. It seems to reduce nutritional scour and prevent scour problems. Sprinkled on meal, calves love the taste, and it encourages them to dig into the meal.

Colostrum management equipment:

  • Clean and labelled buckets with lids.
  • Brix refractometer – check it is working properly and calibrate with distilled water.
  • Potassium sorbate to store gold colostrum or Perfect Udder® bags for freezing.
  • Calf feeder – preferably Antahi 4 litre or a similar tube.

Tagging equipment:

  • Taggers
  • Tags
  • Meths or iodine for dipping taggers between dealing with each calf
  • Teat wipes to clean ears where needed.


  • 10% iodine spray for navels – to be used twice, i.e.once when calves are collected and once when placed in pens.

Finally, make sure you are comfortable with how you are going to run things and that your staff are fully trained (including people collecting calves from the paddock and milking colostrum cows). At Vetlife we offer Future Cow consults which we tailor to your farm – they are often a mix of advising on best calf-rearing procedures for your farm and educating your staff. Come and talk to us and see how we can assist you in fine-tuning your plan.