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Expert says national calf mortality rate is too high
Ohio Correspondent

WOOSTER, Ohio — Healthy, well-grown calves are a valuable component of any successful dairy operation, according to Dianne Shoemaker, extension dairy specialist at the Ohio State University Extension Center at Wooster.

She added that, too often, dairy producers focus on the dairy herd, and the replacements tend to be an afterthought. In reality, the key to the success of the milking herd lies in how the replacements are raised.

“I saw a need for producers to fine-tune their calf-raising skills,” said Shoemaker.

She and her family also operate a dairy farm where she is responsible for raising the replacement animals, hence she feels strongly about the issue.

“If you are not increasing your herd or selling replacements, you are doing something wrong in your calf-raising program,” she said. If a dairy is looking at its long-term future, it can’t afford to let its calves die, according to Shoemaker.

“Any good calf raiser doesn’t want their calves to die,” she said. “But the nationwide mortality loss for calves is 10 percent. That is not acceptable. You are never going to get to zero but 1 or 2 percent is acceptable.”

For that reason, Shoemaker and her colleagues in the Department of Animal Science Ohio State Extension Center at Wooster and Veterinary Preventative Medicine at The Ohio State University put together the first ever Neonatal Calf Care and Management Workshop, March 21-22, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.

The Neonatal Calf Care and Management Workshop is an intensive hands-on event that will cover such topics as disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention; posting a calf; assessing calf health; dealing with drugs and fluid therapy; delivering newborns; nutrition and growth; caregiver health and safety; and managing the calf enterprise. Workshop presenters include experts from Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Department of Animal Science, OSU Extension and OARDC’s Food Animal Health Research Program.

Registration is $190 per person and includes extensive resource materials, weigh tapes and growth charts, two sets of disposable coveralls, boots and gloves for lab work, lab supplies, lunch and refreshments. Additional registrations from each farm are $155 per person. Space is limited.

For details, call Shoemaker at 330-257-3377 or e-mail

Additional information can be found by logging on to

This farm news was published in the March 8, 2006 issue of Farm World.