How to Start Newborn Calves Strong

Dr. Erika Nagorske

Mar 08, 2022

To say it all starts with newborn calf care is not an overstatement. Getting a calf started off strong and healthy sets it up for maximized growth and a solid weaning weight.

Watch Dr. Erika Nagorske, a practicing veterinarian with Southwest Veterinary Services, FBN’s® official veterinary partner, in the video below as she discusses tips and tricks for newborn calves.

Watch Now: Tips and Tricks for Newborn Calves

Essential Newborn Calf Supplies


Below is a list of supplies that you’ll want to have on hand for your calving season. Many of them can be found on FBN’s online animal health store.

The Basics of Newborn Calf Care

Get the calf warm and dry

The mother should be able to dry and warm the calf by aggressively licking but sometimes additional equipment like a warming box will be helpful. This will give you a place that is dry and warm for the newborn calf and will help protect it against the cold. 

Dip navel with iodine

Dipping the navel with iodine will help reduce infection through the open umbilical cord, which can take a day or two to dry up and fall off. The umbilical cord goes straight to the liver so the potential for a calf to get systemically sick is very high if it becomes infected. 

If a cow licks off the iodine aggressively, you may want to consider skipping this step. In some cases, the cow licking the navel can cause infection. Discuss your options with your veterinarian. If you do decide to skip this step, ensure that you have a nice dry and bedded area for the calf to rest. 

Administer vaccines

Scour vaccines and/or respiratory vaccines are good tools to protect your calf from disease. Discuss a protocol with your veterinarian that fits your operation. 

Consider castrating bull calves

Veterinarians often advise that castration should take place when calves are young because it’s less painful, less stressful, and the likelihood of a bull calf bleeding out is reduced because they’re smaller. Discuss the timing and pain management with your veterinarian, but veterinary medicine generally encourages producers to think about castrating calves when they are young.

Let mama and baby do their thing

Ideally, calves should be up and nursing within 30 minutes of birth. This is also necessary for the calf to get a full feeding of colostrum within 6 hours to get passive transfer of their immune system. 


The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your animals. 

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Dr. Erika Nagorske

Mar 08, 2022

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