Calf Rearing

Learn to raise calves for dairy or beef farming. This course will help you build a practical and theoretical understanding of the industry, all under the guidance of our international faculty of animal scientists and farm professionals.

Course Code: BAG207
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Raising Calves can be a profitable sideline; or a fundamental enterprise for a farm.

Breeding calves is only the start of an involved process that farmers follow in raising a calf. This course provides a very good foundation for understanding that whole process.

Comments from ACS students:

"I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to raise calves!!" R. Beitlich, Aust, Calf Rearing

"Been working in the livestock (Dairy Cattle) industry for years and thought I knew it all. Calf rearing was one area I had limited knowledge of, and due to a new work role, I needed to know more... QUICKLY!!!
This course allowed me the freedom to work within the industry & learn at the same time. I learnt a lot of new and diverse calf rearing options that have now better prepared me for the 'real world' of calf rearing and my new role within the dairy industry. A great 'grounding' course, even for those who are hands on in raising claves. I have recommended this course to a few calf rearers already! I'd be happy to highly recommend the course to anyone with an interest in raising the next quality batch of calf replacements on their farm". Tiffany Gordon, Aust, Calf Rearing course.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Calving and Culling
    • Introduction to Calf Rearing
    • Year-round and Seasonal Calving Systems
    • Calf Mortality
    • Principles of Good Calf Rearing
    • Pre-Calving Management
    • Managing the Cow for a Healthy Calf
    • Body Condition Score
    • Feeding a Cow Pre-Calving
    • Supplemental Feeding Tips
    • Colostrum Management
    • Calf Selection
    • Estimated Breeding Value
    • Culling
    • Assessing Calves for Suitability in a Rearing System
  2. Calving Management
    • The Birth of a Calf
    • Signs that the Birth is Close
    • Stages of Normal Birth
    • Calving Problems
    • Abnormal Presentations
    • The Calf at Birth
    • Colostrum
    • Stress and Pathogen Exposure
    • Managing Stress
    • Managing Pathogen Exposure
    • The Calf Digestive Tract
    • Rumen Development
  3. Calf Health Management
    • Common Calf Diseases
    • Scours
    • Roundworm Scours
    • Lungworm
    • Coccidiosis
    • Calf Diphtheria
    • Pneumonia
    • Clostridial Diseases
    • Salmonella
    • Navel ill or Joint ill
    • Stress and the Young Calf
    • Transport Stress
    • Feeding Stress
    • Stress from Heat or Cold
  4. Calf Rearing Systems
    • Natural Systems of Calf Rearing
    • Single Suckling
    • Multiple Suckling
    • Foster Suckling
    • Race Suckling
    • Early Weaning
    • Artificial Systems of Calf Rearing
    • Teaching the Calf to Drink
    • A Basic Feeding Program
    • Milk Substitute Feeding
    • Common Calf Rearing Systems
    • Rearing Calves at Grass
    • Five and a Half Day System
    • Once a Day System
    • Cold Milk System
    • Acidified Milk Replacers
    • Milk-fed Veal Production
    • Housing and Management Practices
  5. Calf Housing
    • Ventilation
    • Isolation
    • Comfort
    • Economy
    • Calf Pens
    • Raised Pens
    • The Calf Hutch
    • Housing Setup and Accessories
    • Feed and Water
    • Bedding
    • Cleaning and Disinfection
  6. Weaning
    • Weaning
    • Stress at Weaning
    • General Weaning Transition Advice
    • Weaning at Eight and Twelve Weeks
    • Weaning at Five Weeks
    • Weaning at Four Weeks
    • Providing Water
  7. Post-weaning
    • Nutrition and First Mating
    • Calf Husbandry Practices
    • Reducing Surgical Stress
    • Cattle Identification
    • Castration
    • Bloodless Castration
    • Surgical Castration
    • Dehorning
    • When to Dehorn
    • Dehorning Instruments and Equipment
    • Choosing the Right Dehorning Instrument
    • Successful Horn Removal
    • Tetanus

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Understand management processes and issues associated with calving and the successful rearing of calves.
  • Understand the issues involved in management of calving operations on a farm.
  • Explain the diagnosis and management of common health problems in calves.
  • Explain different systems of calf rearing.
  • Explain the housing requirements of calves in an animal production situation.
  • Explain the procedures for weaning calves in a commercial situation.
  • Explain the post-weaning requirements of calves in a commercial situation.

What You Will Do

  • Explore feed qualities and nutritional values, both theoretically and practically through interacting with industry professionals.
  • Understand the ins-and-outs of breeding and selection processed relevant to your area.
  • Gain knowledge about and practical exposure to calving and calving difficulties.
  • Watch documentaries on calf digestion development and function.
  • Listen to podcasts on calf rearing to compliment the course.
  • Become familiar with agricultural supply outlets and their products.
  • Communicate with different subject specialists, including expert tutors, dairy authorities, farmers and more!

Managing the Cow for a Healthy Calf

The several weeks leading up to calving are essential to a successful parturition. Often, birthing outcomes can be related back to decisions made by managing parties throughout the weeks immediately preceding calving. Many birthing circumstances, including likelihood of difficulties, can relate to this period, and especially to the nutritional status of the dam.

It is important to ensure that milking of a dam is discontinued to allow a dry period of 45 – 65 days prior to calving. Not meeting or increasing this dry period can lead to a depression in milk production in the coming lactation. The actual period of drying off will decrease the older and more gestationally experienced the cow becomes, i.e., first time mothers will require the full 65-day dry period.

It is important that a dry period precede calving for three main reasons:

  1. To allow cows to build up stores for the next lactation and replenish reserves.
  2. To restore and renew mammary tissues.
  3. To promote and utilise the benefits of hormonal adjustments which occur throughout gestation and coming into parturition.

Cows should receive dry cow mineral supplementation to maintain the required vitamin and mineral levels of both cow and developing calf. Particular attention should be paid to the calcium, selenium, iodine and vitamin E levels of dry cows. Supplementation requirements will vary relative to vitamin and mineral status of the farm, i.e., nutritive levels and qualities of grasses and other feeds that dams have access to. Consult a local veterinarian where deficiencies are suspected.

Many farmers will also use the dry period as an opportunity to vaccinate cows against some of the agents which cause calf scours (e.g., Rotavirus or Escherichia coli). The derived immunity is passed on to the unborn calf. Where Rotavirus or E. coli have been diagnosed as a persistent problem, vaccination is recommended. However, veterinary consultant prior to implementation of such a vaccination program is also recommended.

While drying off period recommendations reach a maximum at 65 days, nutritional considerations should be emphasised from 90 days prior to parturition. This does not mean that feeding and nutrition can be neglected preceding this time; it means to stress the critical nature of providing appropriate nutrition throughout this end period. The majority of foetal growth for a cow, occurs within the 90 day which lead into calving. Feeding and management of the dam throughout the pre-calving period will ultimately impact outcomes of:

  • Calf survivability,
  • Calf health; short and long-term,
  • Overall calf production value,
  • Dam birthing difficulties or success, and
  • Future reproductive abilities of dams.

Why Study this Course?

Interested in learning the ins-and-outs of rearing calves? This course provides an excellent foundation for successful calf rearing and management.

This course is suited to:

  • Anyone new to calving or rearing calves.
  • Those with limited understanding or experience in calving or rearing calves.
  • Anyone passionate about calf rearing and care.
  • Those looking to work on a dairy, cattle breeding or beef facility.
  • Anyone looking to work as a farmer or farm manager.
  • Those looking to improve their practical understanding of calving and rearing.
  • Farmers looking to improve or refresh their calving and calf rearing knowledge.
  • Agricultural veterinarian assistants.
  • Aspiring agricultural students and workers. 

This course provides an opportunity to acquire knowledge, as well as develop a deeper awareness of the industry and interact with experts on a different level to what one may have previously experienced (through interactions with expert tutors and beyond).

This course will enhance your practical and theoretical knowledge of calving and rearing calves. You will gain knowledge, insight and a new confidence for the topic as you progress through this informative, relevant course!

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

How can I start this course?

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This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has managed veterinary operating theatre, responsible for animal anesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniques and procedures.

Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation.
Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.

Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

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