Calves must be born

healthy and without


Around calving

Providing a safe, stress-free and clean environment is essential

Every calving follows its own path, so it never becomes a routine. Each birth is unique, and requires your undivided attention for the cow and calf. Most cows give birth to a calf without assistance. If help is needed in too many cases, you should take a closer look to your breeding program. The birth process is heavily influenced by dry cow management. Make sure the mother has no stress, sufficient feed and no health problems during the dry period.

Other rearing dairy calves topics

Around calving
0-2 DAYS
3-49 DAYS
8-10 WEEKS
5 months until breeding

The calving pen

When designing the calving barn, think in terms of convenience for yourself and comfort and hygiene for the cow and calf. The standard number of calving pens is 3% of the total number of dairy cattle, for example 3 pens per 100 cows. The guideline for the pen size is 12 to 20 m 2 per cow. Make sure the cow is easy to monitor.

The pen must be accessible with a tractor or loader. This allows for easy moving of a sick cow if necessary and for cleaning out the pen after calving.

Avoid stress! The cow will calve more easily if she retains contact with the rest of the group. If the calving pen is completely secluded, move the cow to the calving pen a few days before calving, so that she can get used to it.

Good ventilation and a fresh atmosphere are essential. The calving pen must be dry, clean and disinfected, with a fresh layer of straw. Put on clean clothes and clean boots before entering the pen. Ensure fresh and clean drinking water and a good supply of feed ration.

The calving protocol

All protocol points are important; but some more than others:

  • Assist the cow with calving only when needed

  • Once the calf is born, check the vitality and separate it from the cow.

  • Put the calf in front of the cow, preferably separated by a feed rack.

  • Disinfect the navel with iodine tincture (in a 10% iodine solution).

  • House the calf in a well-cleaned, disinfected and well bedded individual pen or igloo.

  • Feed the cow an energy drink, such as farm-O-San Reviva, immediately after calving.

The calving pen at Hoving dairy farm

What is the best location for a calving pen? How can you ensure optimum monitoring, comfort and cleanliness for the cow and calf, and convenience for yourself? The video of Hoving farm shows a practical example. Dutch dairy farmer Arjan Hoving explains all about the calving barn at this farm with 250 dairy cows.


Calving is a risky period, both for the cow and the calf.

There are a number of things that can be done to ensure a smooth calving process, preparing the calf for a good start of the rearing period and the cow for a successful lactation.
Download the Sprayfo calving protocol to make sure you have the right steps at hand.

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