Calf survival checklist

Two-thirds of calf losses in northern Australia could be occurring within a week of birth, as evidenced in research on Beef CRC herds.

By applying some basic strategies, producers can improve the number of calves weaned each year through enhanced breeder herd management.

Here’s a quick checklist to support your breeders in raising robust calves:

  • Avoid mustering during calving – losses are greater in maiden heifers, so manage these extra carefully.
  • Sustain moderate-to-good cow body condition at the point of calving and calve when adequate feed is available.
  • Use pregnancy testing and foetal ageing to segregate breeders, such as pregnant heifers, that need targeted nutritional and weaning management
  • Ensure there is sufficient feed within 2 km of clean, cool water.
  • Determine the phosphorus status of the breeder paddocks and, if acutely deficient, provide phosphorus during late pregnancy and lactation – each litre of milk needs one gram of phosphorus.
  • Use strategic supplementation to rectify other deficiencies, especially protein, in pregnant cows.
  • Provide adequate shelter, such as trees, and well-drained areas in calving paddocks.
  • Vaccinate pregnant cows against major endemic diseases to boost colostrum antibodies.
  • Cull cows with bottle teats or a very large udder at calving, and do not breed with bulls out of cows that have poor udders and teats.

If you’d like more information:

Dave Smith
Senior Extension Officer, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
T: 07 4761 5160

Visit for further resources.