Which influences have an impact on a calf?

Influences during pregnancy

The calf is already exposed to various environmental influences in the womb of the pregnant cow. For example, stress factors caused by overcrowding in the stall, stress of hot temperatures and the nutrient supply for the mother all have a considerable influence on the prenatal development of the calf. Figure 1 below illustrates which factors can influence the prenatal development of the calf during pregnancy.

JOSERA graphic shows factors affecting calves

Figure 1: Factors affecting the prenatal development of the calf

Influences of intestinal pathogens

Immediately after birth, there is a high risk of infection as a result of intestinal pathogens; these can lead to diarrhoea in the first weeks of life. Studies show that approximately 75% of calf losses due to infection are caused by the intestinal pathogens cryptosporidia, rota viruses, coronaviruses and escherichia coli.

Table 1: Infectious diarrhoea and ist characteristics

While rotaviruses reproduce mainly in the upper section of the small intestine, corona viruses also colonise parts of the large intestine. The incubation period is 1 to 2 days, meaning pathogen-related diarrhoeal diseases in infections around the time of birth, can occur only a few days after birth. Due to the deterioration of the intestinal villi, food components are no longer absorbed, which results in serious disease incidences. In order to reduce the risk of rota and corona viruses, a maternal metaphylactic vaccination programme may be carried out. Correcting timing the vaccination of the mother, as well as a disciplined supply of colostrum, is crucial for this.

Among the parasites, cryptosporidia are considered the primary diarrhoea pathogen. The eggs (oocytes) of the parasites are excreted with the faeces and can remain infectious for up to 6 months under stall conditions. There is therefore a high risk of infection because the pathogens do not cause clinical symptoms in adult animals, but are transmitted via faeces within the dairy herd and from dam to calf. The antibodies contained in the colostrum are almost ineffective against cryptosporidia. For the treatment of cryptosporidia, there is currently only one approved preparation with the trade name Halocur®, which can be used metaphylactically in the first days of life.

For more information don’t hesitate to contact us.

Impact of husbandry

The husbandry of calves has a significant impact on their health and development. This is proven by the results of a current trial at the Hofgut Neumühle Training and Research Institute. The trials investigated the influence of the length of time spent in the igloo on the performance and health of the calves.

The experimental group was already moved to group penning on the 10th day of life. The peer group, on the other hand, was not moved to group penning until the 28th day of life. The results showed that the stress caused by the change of pen on the 10th day of life was significantly higher for the animals than on the 28th day of life. The decrease in feed intake immediately after the rehousing was more pronounced in the younger animals than in the comparison group, which was moved after the 28th day of life. This led to a lower intake of feed throughout the entire drinking phase and thus also to a lower energy intake, which had significant effects on both health and physical development.

JOSERA feeding advice


The results show that by extending the igloo phase to 28 days, the stress level at the time of low immune protection in the first weeks of life is reduced and a significant improvement in the health status of calf rearing is achieved.

Calf milk replacer: how do they support successful calf rearing?

In the first weeks of life, the milk replacer is the main source of nutrients for the young calf. Therefore, especially in the early feeding phase, it is important to ensure high quality feeding troughs and a needs-based supply of nutrients. In practice, either whole milk and milk replacer, or a mixture of both, are used.

In the case of whole milk feed alone, it should be ensured that the deficit of trace elements and vitamins is compensated by a supplement.
You can find more information about our milk replacers here.

As a rule, milk replacers are created as required, and special additives are also used for more specific circumstances, such as the addition of lactic acid bacteria to stabilise the digestive tract.As a rule, milk replacers are created as required, and special additives are also used for more specific circumstances, such as the addition of lactic acid bacteria to stabilise the digestive tract.

Single-phase feeding

Different feeding concepts are possible for calf milk replacer. In single-phase feeding, after the colostrum phase, a milk replacer is used and one type of milk replacer is fed until weaning.

JOSERA Logo we care, you grow

For faster weaning, this so-called single-phase concept only allows the amount and concentration of the feed to be varied.

Our feeding recommendation for the single-phase feeding:

JOSERA IgluVital


Multiphase feeding

In contrast, two-phase feeding of milk replacer offers both physiological and economic advantages. With the two-phase feed, the JOSERA IgluVital milk replacer is used in the igloo phase and in the 4th week of life, there is a smooth transition to a more favourable follow-on milk replacer such as Optimil. Two-phase feeding with IgluVital creates the best conditions for the young calf in the first weeks of life. When changing the milk replacer, the two varieties should be blended together for several days to assist the calves getting used to it.

Advantages of the multi-phase feeding concept

  • The specific properties of the milk replacer can be better adapted to the nutritional requirements and needs of the animal, ensuring safe rearing.
  • Increased economic efficiency through cost savings with the same daily gains

Milk replacer during multi-phase feeding

The supply of milk replacer on the market today is enormous and choosing the right variety is very difficult at first glance. When evaluating a milk replacer – and in addition to criteria of price and composition – the operational area and the different nutritional requirements of the animal in the respective feeding phases must also be considered. In the first weeks of life, the digestive tract of the calf and associated enzymes is initially geared towards the digestion of milk protein and lactose. Therefore, in the first weeks after the colostrum phase, a high-quality milk replacer with a high content of milk components should be used.

The IgluVital milk replacer, which is specially designed to meet the needs of the new-born calf, is particularly suitable for this purpose.

JOSERA woman with calf

Figure 2 illustrates the development of enzyme activity in the digestive tract of the calf as they become older. While lactose can be digested immediately after birth, plant carbohydrates can only be digested by increasing secretion of the enzymes saccharase and amylase. The protein digestion of calves is based on the enzymes chymosin, as a specific ferment for the cleavage of milk proteins, and pepsin, which enables the digestion of plant protein components. The ratio of chymosin to pepsin in the young calf is about 80:20 in the first weeks of life. This ratio changes in favour of pepsin within a few weeks. Due to this enzyme development, the calf is also able to digest plant components in the milk replacer from the 3rd week of life.

JOSERA graphic shows development of enzyme activity
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The activity of digestive enzymes depends on the nutrition consumed.
Enzyme training already takes place during the feeding phase through the absorption of plant components.

Our feeding recommendation for the first phase of the multiphase feeding:
JOSERA IgluVital

Our feeding recommendation for the second phase of the multiphase feeding:
JOSERA Optimil
JOSERA Supramil
JOSERA Vitamil

Feeding according the ad libitum concept

Numerous studies have shown that intensive calf feeding has a positive effect not only on the development of the calves during the rearing phase but also on the later life of the dairy cow. Read here about the topic ad libitum feeding of calves!

The higher life performance can be attributed to the effects of metabolic programming. This means that within the first 40 days of life the development of the organs and udder systems are positively influenced. Take a look at the experiment!

The transition to solid feed

Continuing an optimal solid feed supply is necessary after the drinking phase. Read more about this topic in our counselor about dry calf TMR.

JOSERA milk replacer at a glance

Single-phase feeding
Milk&Fat50% skim milk powder
Brilliant25% skim milk powder
GoldenSpezialwhey/ (plant)
Easymil (cold-sour)whey/ (plant)
Multiphase feeding
1st phase2nd phase
Further combinations see above

50% Magermilchpulver

Optimilwhey/ (plant)
Supramilwhey/ (plant)
Vitamilwhey/ (plant)
FE-Trankwhey/ (plant)

Example of feeding plans for calf rearing

JOSERA table shows feeding recommendation for 12 weeks
JOSERA table shows feeding plan for intensive calf rearing

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FAQ – Diarrhoea

The most important prophylactic measure is good hygiene in the calving pen and clean natal care, as this is where the first transfer from the mother to the new-born calf takes place. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the igloos before each new occupancy should also be part of the routine being followed. Particularly with cryptosporidia diarrhoea, care must be taken that an antiparasitic agent is used to disinfect the calf pens.

JOSERA VitalTrunk should be offered as an electrolyte drink between feeding times as a treatment measure for already ill animals, since the diarrhoea-stricken calf loses large quantities of liquid and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, hydrogen carbonate) via the intestines. The excretion of buffered salt lowers the pH value in the blood; this is called metabolic acidosis.
For as long as the calves drink independently, the milk feed should be continued in order to maintain daily energy requirements.

In order to reduce water loss from acute diarrhoea, we recommend adding JOSERA Curavit to the milk at a daily dosage of 2 g/kg live weight. Curavit contains dietary components with a high swelling property that reduce fluid loss. At the same time, Curavit balances the increased excretion of buffered salt and maintains the water-electrolyte balance.

  • Too high or too low drinking temperatures (optimum temperature: 39 – 40°C)
  • Incorrect milk replacer concentration (optimum: 125g/litre drinking water or 140g/litre water)
  • Feed quantity (4 to 8 litres per animal and day should be given, depending on the feeding phase; if 1.5 kg of concentrated feed is consumed, weaning should begin)
  • Hygiene
  • Hasty drinking (e.g. due to broken teats, etc.)

Do you have any questions about JOSERA milk replacer or need help with calf rearing? Contact us, we will be happy to help you.

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