Incorporating calves into your overall herd health strategy – A checklist for producers

Producers are masters at keeping information in their heads. They have an uncanny ability to retain information that pertains to the animals in their care. However, as farms grow and production scale becomes larger, it can become increasingly difficult to remember what was once easy to recall.

Keeping records is a great way to help keep track of individual information. Going one step further, it is also becoming commonplace for farms to have written herd health plans. A herd health plan helps provide strategies for disease and injury prevention, rapid detection, and effective treatment, for cattle in all stages of production.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Veal Cattle (Code) is the veal industry’s standard of care for starting calves for the veal and dairy-beef markets. The latest Code (2017) contains a section on health management—this is a great resource for managing both male dairy calves and heifers, and the recommendations, along with input from herd veterinarians and other advisors, can contribute to a comprehensive strategy that will help producers attain herd health objectives.

The Code outlines a few key areas to consider when incorporating calf management into herd health plans:


The Code requires veal producers to have a valid, ongoing, veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with a licenced veterinarian, which involves at least one on-farm visit per year to assess overall herd health and welfare. Veal producers are also required to have a written herd health plan that is developed and implemented with veterinary and technical advice, readily available and updated at least annually.