Veterinarian Offers Dairy Bull Calf Care Tips via Social Media

Dairy bull calves sometimes don’t get the same attention as their female counterparts since they leave the farm at an earlier age. A veterinarian from Ohio is hoping to change that perception offering advice through social media on how to keep male dairy calves on a successful path that leads to consumer avenues like veal or beef.  

Veterinarian Marissa Hake did a social media takeover for Mackinson Dairy Farm on Oct. 27 sharing videos and photos of her day caring for veal calves. In the posts Hake offered tips on managing the health of dairy bull calves.

“I’m really excited to share with you what I do every day,” Hake says in the first video. She specializes in veal calf care within Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Hake says that veal production has changed in the past 30 years to improve the care and comfort of calves. Rather than being housed individually, calves are more predominately raised in groups of 5-10 cattle after getting a start by themselves for the first 6-8 weeks of age.

Veal calves are fed a milk-based diet, with milk that is fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. They also receive some grain and forage to help balance the diet. 

In Hake's fourth post farm workers can be seen drawing blood from a few calves. The blood samples are being taken to monitor iron levels in calves and help reduce the risk of anemia. Hake says this is important because veal calves don't get as much iron because milk is very low in the mineral, so additional supplementation might be needed. 

In a fifth video Hake discusses what she looks for from bull calves after they leave a dairy. 

Hydration status is at the top of the list. If the eyes are sunken in or when doing a skin tent test the hide doesn't bounce back quickly it is vital to get fluids and electrolytes into the calf. 

"Another thing we check is for naval infections. Go down and grab the naval. Check for tenderness, swelling, drainage, heat. If the calf has a really big naval we want to get that treated," Hake says. 

Another test Hake performs on new calves is for total protein status. Testing for total protein status lets a producer and veterinarian know if passive transfer of immunity has occurred from colostrum. 

The total protein status test can be done by pulling blood from the calf, spinning the blood in a centrifuge and measuring blood plasma with a Brix Refractometer. 

"This can be done on farm, it is super easy. Usually do it between 2 to 5 days old. It is the best time to get the most accurate result," Hake says of total protein status testing.

To end the social media takeover at Mackinson Dairy Farm, Hake shares some additional facts on veal. For instance, veal calves average around 500 lb. when going to a meat processor making them older than pork or poultry animals when going to market. 

"Care on the dairy farm is very important for bull calves whether they move onto dairy beef or veal," Hake says.

To follow Hake and learn more about the work she does caring for veal calves follow her on Facebook at Dr. Hake - Calf Vet.