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.
I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to raise calves!! R. Beitlich, Aust, Calf Rearing course
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
    • Research into raising dairy calves
    • Principles of good calf rearing
    • Pre-calving management
    • Managing the cow for a healthy calf
    • Colostrum management
    • Calf selection
    • Estimated Breeding Value (EBV)
    • Culling
    • Assessing calves for suitability in a rearing system
  2. Calving Management
    • The birth of a calf
    • Signs that the birth is close
    • Stages in a normal birth
    • Calving problems
    • Important points
    • Abnormal presentations
    • The calf at birth
    • Colostrum
    • Stress and pathogen exposure
    • Managing stress
    • Managing pathogen exposure
    • The calf digestive tract
    • Rumen development
    • Bacteria
    • Liquid in the rumen
    • Outflows of rumen materials
    • Absorptive qualities
    • Substrate (Dry feed Intake)
  3. Calf Health Management
    • Overview
    • Common calf diseases
    • Scours
    • Coccidiosis
    • Round Worm Scours
    • Lung worm
    • Calf diphtheria
    • Pneumonia
    • Clostridial Disease
    • salmonella
    • Navel and joint ill
    • Stress and the young calf
    • Transport stress
    • Feeding stress
    • Heat and cold
  4. Calf Rearing Systems
    • Birth to weaning
    • 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
    • Common calf rearing systems
    • Rearing calves at grass
    • Five and a half day system
    • Once a day system
    • Cold milk system
    • Acidified milk replacer
    • Mildly acidic milk replacer
    • Strongly acidic milk replacer
    • Milk-fed veal production
  5. Calf Housing
    • Ventilation
    • Isolation
    • Comfort
    • Economy
    • Calf Pens
    • Metal crates
    • The calf hutch
  6. Weaning
    • Stress at weaning
    • General weaning transition strategies
    • Providing water
    • Weaning at twelve and eight weeks
    • Weaning at five weeks
    • Weaning at four weeks
  7. Post-weaning
    • Post weaning period
    • Calf husbandry practices
    • Reducing surgical stress
    • Cattle identification
    • Castration
    • Bloodless castration
    • Surgical Castration
    • Dehorning
    • When to dehorn
    • Dehorning instruments and equipment
    • Tetanus
    • Vaccination and Worming

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.


  • Select calves for specified purposes, including dairy stock, and breeding stock.
  • Explain the methods of managing calving operations on a farm.
  • Explain the diagnosis of common health problems which may occur in calves.
  • Explain different techniques of calf rearing.
  • Explain the housing requirements of calves in an animal production situation.
  • Explain the procedures for weaning calves in an commercial situation.
  • Explain the post-weaning requirements of calves, in a commercial situation.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the phenotype factors related to the selection of calves.
  • Explain the genotype factors related to the selection of calves.
  • Write a checklist of criteria for selecting calves for dairying.
  • Explain how breeding can assist in obtaining calves for three different specified purposes.
  • Describe the different stages in the normal birth of a calf.
  • Explain the process of calving, in response to either observations of a calf being born, or the viewing of a video of a calf being born.
  • Explain at least five problems that can occur during calving, on a typical property in the learner's locality.
  • Analyse two case studies of problematic calving incidents.
  • List at least four methods for over-coming specified calving problems.
  • List the common health problems which can occur with calves in the learner's locality.
  • Describe the symptoms of at least three common calf diseases, including scouring.
  • Explain the possible effects of stress on a calf.
  • Explain an appropriate treatment for at least three common calf diseases, including scouring.
  • Develop guidelines for stock culling, for a specified property.
  • Analyse data in a case study in order to diagnose the health problems of a calf.
  • Report on an examination of the condition of a calf inspected by the learner.
  • Describe calf husbandry techniques observed by the learner, including:
    • Earmarking
    • Castration
    • Dehorning
    • Branding
    • Tattooing
    • Drenching
  • Compare natural calf rearing techniques with artificial calf rearing techniques.
  • Determine the appropriate method of calf rearing for a specified property.
  • List the criteria which need to be satisfied in the design of calf housing facilities, in the learner's locality.
  • Compare the suitability of different building materials for calf housing facilities, in different climates.
  • Analyse calf housing facilities on a specified property in order to determine the appropriateness of their design.
  • Prepare a design for a calf housing facility, including:
    • A sketch/concept plan
    • A description of materials
    • An estimate of cost
  • Explain the stages of weaning a calf on a property with which the learner is familiar.
  • List the possible problems which may arise in weaning calves.
  • Recommend suitable treatments for the weaning problems.
  • Explain the stages of post weaning for a normal calf on a property with which the learner is familiar.
  • List the problems which may arise with calves during the post-weaning period.
  • Explain any variations that may be applied to the procedure of post-weaning a calf.

Manage the Cow for a Healthy Calf

Ensure that the cow is dried off six to eight weeks before calving. Cows should receive dry cow minerals where necessary to maintain the required vitamin and mineral status of both cow and developing calf. Particular attention should be paid to the calcium, selenium, iodine and vitamin E status of dry cows depending on the mineral and vitamin status of your farm. Consult your local veterinarian about the need for these minerals and vitamins on your own farm if you suspect a problem.

A number of farmers also use the dry period as an opportunity to vaccinate cows against some of the agents which cause calf scour (e.g. Rotavirus or E. coli). The derived immunity is passed on to the unborn calf. Consult your local veterinarian about the use of such vaccination programs in your own herd. If Rotavirus or E. coli has been diagnosed as a persistent problem, vaccination is recommended.

A range of potential outcomes from calving, including the likelihood of the cow experiencing difficulty, can be strongly influenced by circumstances during the several weeks immediately prior to calving. These circumstances mainly relate to the condition and nutrition of the cow.

Some people make the mistake of offering the cow the best feed available, believing it will help build condition that will in turn help with calving. Unfortunately, this is not true. This is due to the extreme demand for Calcium and Magnesium for milk production – no matter how high the quality of feed; it cannot meet the initial surge in demand for these elements. Instead, the cow must have time to adjust its metabolism in preparation for calving. During the last six weeks prior to calving, the cow should receive relatively low quality feed. This will encourage the cow to begin drawing Calcium from its bones to help supply the surge in demand following calving. By then switching the cow to high quality feed immediately following calving, the likelihood of her developing metabolic disorders such as Grass Tetany or Milk Fever will be greatly reduced.

Another common mistake is to reduce the quantity of feed. Starving the cow will do more harm than good. A useful strategy is to keep a good, clean paddock close to the dairy that has only lower quality grass species and is grazed out heavily before introducing the cows. Then ensure a good supply of grass hay (remember quality is not important) that has been sprinkled with a solution of Epsom salts and Molasses – the molasses counteracts the taste of the Epsom salts. A word of caution, however, when buying or keeping hay for this purpose, you should be especially wary of mould. Feeding mouldy hay can lead to abortions, stillbirths or serious neurological disorders."


Why Study this Course?

  • For anyone new to the subject, this course develops a broad understanding of calf production.
  • For anyone with limited understanding or experience; this course provides an opportunity to fill in important gaps in your understanding, which you may have overlooked previously.
  • For anyone with a desire to work on a beef or dairy farm; it provides a very important foundation for moving forward with your employment or career aspirations.

This course provides not only an opportunity to acquire knowledge, but also to develop a deeper awareness of the industry and interact with experts on a different level to what you had previously experienced (both interacting with expert tutors and beyond.

You will think about cattle, in particular calves; in a different way at the end of this course and see possibilities for using your new found learning in ways you might not have quite contemplated before.

This course will benefit anyone working with, or interested in beef or dairy cattle.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
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.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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Course Contributors

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

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.

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.

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