Infographic: How to improve the performance of dairy heifer calves

The performance of your dairy heifer calves can make all the difference to the profitability of your herd. We have visualised the latest research on keeping heifer calves happy, healthy and as profitable as possible. Take a look at our infographic below.

Staying healthy from day dot

The first few months of life? They are a critical time for any animal. It’s no different with dairy heifer calves. But did you know that performance of the young calf can determine its lifetime productivity? Growth rates during the first two months are especially important. And the healthier your calves are, the better their growth rates will be, and the more profitable your herd is likely to be.

Each heifer calf’s growth rate can have a direct impact on: 

- age at first calving
- longevity in the herd1
- milk yields during first and second lactation2

It’s a remarkable finding. One that makes it vital to make sure your calves get precisely the right care during their first weeks of life.

Breathe easy...

So we have established that keeping young calves healthy is important in ensuring they grow up to be productive dairy cows. That makes it crucial to protect the respiratory health of your calves. Good respiratory health is important for a calf’s wellbeing, and essential for good growth and profitable lifetime performance. You could add more than £7503 to the lifetime value of each heifer by looking after their respiratory health when they are young. Yet 67% of cases of pneumonia are estimated to occur in calves less than three months old4.

How can you improve respiratory health?

The list of best practices on calf management is long. But there are four basic principles you should follow to help protect the respiratory health of your calves:

Ensure optimal colostrum intake - Colostrum is a vital source of antibodies that boost calves’ immune systems and help to keep them healthy. Aim for at least 10% of body weight in the first 12 hours, with at least 3 litres given in the first 2 hours after birth.

Vaccinate early - Combined with other measures aimed at ensuring good respiratory health, early protection, through vaccination, against the key viruses should be an integral part of good calf management.

Manage group size - From 8 weeks of age calves should be group-housed. Grouping pre-weaning can reduce the risk of infection. Ideally there should be no more than 30 calves sharing the same airspace.  

Happy housing conditions - The housing for your calves should be warm, dry and draught-free, with enough ventilation to prevent the build-up of viruses and bacteria.

Want to know more? Take a look at our infographic below.

dairy heifer calf infographic

To download the high-resolution version of this infographic, click here.


1. Bach A. et al (2011) JDS: 94 (2) 1052-7

2. Morrison S. (2011) Zoetis Conference Rhodes (

3. See Infographic

4. Zoetis Market Research (2006)

For further information please contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS Customer support: 0845 300 8034 Use medicines responsibly (