CALF CLUB INFORMATION PACK
A Guide to everything you may need to know about Calf Club and were to afraid to ask
SELECTING A CALF OR LAMB
You’ve decided to exhibit a calf or lamb at your schools Calf Club. Before getting an animal you may need to check you have a few essential things.
Calves and lambs need safe, well fenced paddocks with shelter from extreme heat or cold, and clean water in a low trough which the calf can reach easily. Calves need good quality, fresh, long grass as (when they are very young ) they tend to nibble at the tips of the grass. Watch your garden with lambs as they will nibble anything!
A milk feeder
Calves – It is preferable to have a personal feeder which allows you to feed the calf on your own so you develop a friendship with it. A bucket or mother udder (a hand held small bucket with its own teat) or if you have more than one calf a calfeteria, which has multiple teats. Lambs – A plastic bottle 1.5 litre lemonade bottle is fine, with a screw on teat which are available at any rural supply store.
Make sure you have time to look after your calf or lamb before and after school. You may need to allow up to 30 minutes morning and afternoon to care for your calf or lamb. This is your responsibility not Mum and Dads, so you may need to get up earlier and allow time in the afternoon. Your calf or lamb will be dependent on you for its food and shelter as you have become its foster parent so you need to be there. It’s a big responsibility but one you will enjoy and get great satisfaction from.
Where to get one
Your school has a list of local farmers who are prepared to supply animals for Calf Club. You or your parents can contact them and see if they have any available. It is at the farmer’s discretion as to how the animal is supplied to you, they may give it to you, sell it, lend it etc. This is for you to negotiate with them direct.
Make sure that when you get your calf or lamb you ask the farmer what breed they are as some classes you enter are breed classes. Also the Judge may ask you what breed they are.
What to look for
There is one person to talk to when it comes to selecting a lamb or calf – the farmer who bred it. They will select a lamb or calf which:
i. Is the right size for you, especially calves. You need to be able to control it when it is two or three months old, so its size relative to yours is important.
ii. Is the right colour or mix of colours.
iii. Has a good body shape – nice straight back, good shoulders, attractive head with well set ears.
iv. Has soft skin, fine coat and hair/good wool.
v. Has a good temperament.
vi. Healthy with no diarrhoea and with calves has been fed colostrum in the first 12 hours.
In addition the farmer will make sure your calf or lamb meets any requirements of the Animal Health Board. The AHB is a Government organisation which ensures that all dairy animals wear ear tags which identify them and their health status.
Keep a Diary
Remember to record the dates when your calf or lamb was born, when it came to you and the milestones which happen during its time with you – When you reduce the number of milk feeds in the day, when you supplement with meal or pellets, when you started to train it etc.
For the first three or four days of its life, your calf will normally drink colostrum which is the first milk produced by the cow after giving birth. It has special ingredients which protect the calf from infection and help it become strong in the first days after its birth.
When the calf’s care passes to you, it will generally have finished this colostrum phase (when it will usually have been with other calves in an indoor pen drinking from a calfeteria) and should know how to suck from an artificial teat. You will by now have arranged a pen or small paddock where your calf can be kept on its own or with other calves that are being hand reared. For the first few days as you become friends, it will help to have a small area so wherever you are in the pen you are close to the calf. It can hear your voice and will soon begin to trust you. The best way to become friends is of course by feeding it.
Right from the start your calf will need feeding twice a day – in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school.
If you live on a farm you can of course get cows milk to feed your calf. For many of you, you will need to purchase calf milk formula and mix it with warm water.
It is very important to keep whatever equipment you use to feed your calf completely clean – calves can get a tummy bug called scours (diarrhoea) from dirty feeding equipment, so clean everything after feeding with hot soapy water so it’s ready for the next feed.
How much to feed
The farmer will tell you this and you will need to review this as your calf will grow very quickly. As a general rule, after feeding your calf will look “full” and their tummy will be round and the calf will be happy, not calling for milk.
A common rule is 10% of body weight, so a 40kg calf needs 4 litres each day or 2 litres twice a day. It is important to mix powders at the correct levels so make sure you read the instructions on the packet carefully. Be sure to feed your calf at the same time each day as it won’t take long for it to know when dinner time is!
Your calf will grow quickly and begin to nibble grass and drink water. At around two weeks you will want to introduce calf meal to its diet so it grows well and has good condition. Meal is fed in the mornings, after its milk feed. You will need a large flat bottomed feeder which your calf can’t push around the paddock.
Although the supply of grass, meal and hay increases as your calf grows, it is still
important to keep feeding milk as it ensures your calf will have a “bloom” on its coat when it competes at Calf Club.
At two or three weeks the calf’s twice a day feeding can be reduced to once a day preferably in the morning. The amount of milk generally increases so your calf is getting one larger drink of milk each day. Calves generally remain on once a day milk feeds until after Group Day. Most calves would be weaned of milk now even if competing at the A & P Shows.
Many of the lambs that become available are orphaned lambs. Often the farmer will nurse them through the first few days and then they passed over to you. You may still need to help it suck from an artificial teat for the first few days.
You will by now have arranged a pen/small paddock where your lamb can be kept on its own or with other lambs that are being hand reared. For very young lambs you may need to provide shelter in the garage or laundry for a while until its strong enough to be left outside at night time. An old dog kennel makes a great lamb house once it is outside in its pen/paddock. For the first few days as you become friends, it will help to have a small area so wherever you are in the pen you are close to the lamb. It can hear your voice and will soon begin to trust you. The best way to become friends is of course by feeding it.
Right from the start your lamb will need feeding at least four times a day. You may need Mum or Dad to help out with this while you are at school.
If you live on a farm you can of course get cows milk to feed your lamb. For many of you, you will need to purchase lamb milk formula and mix it with warm water.
It is very important to keep whatever equipment you use to feed your lamb completely clean – lambs can get a tummy bug called scours (diarrhoea) from dirty feeding equipment, so clean everything after feeding with hot soapy water so it’s ready for the next feed.
How much to feed
The farmer will tell you this and you will need to review this as your lamb will grow very quickly. As a general rule, after feeding your lamb will look “full” and their tummy will be round and the lamb will be happy, not calling for milk.
A common rule is 10% of body weight, so a 10kg lamb needs 1 litre each day or 250 mls four times a day. It is important to mix powders at the correct levels so make sure you read the instructions on the packet carefully.
Be sure to feed your lamb at the same time each day as it won’t take long for it to know when dinner time is!
Your lamb will grow quickly and begin to nibble grass and drink water. At around two weeks you may want to introduce sheep pellets to its diet so it grows well and has good condition.
Refer to the instructions on the milk formula packet for reduction of feeds. Eventually your four feds will be reduced to three, two and one a day.
Lambs generally remain on once a day milk feeds until after Group Day.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR CALF OR LAMB
Keep a constant eye on your lamb or calf and if anything changes get your parents to check it out. To avoid your lamb or calf getting scours, make sure everything it eats out of is spotlessly clean. Also make sure its bedding is always clean (you may have sawdust or hay on the floor of the pen or house) – rake out any soiling regularly to your lamb or calf has a clean dry place to rest.
Dehorning – Most calves grow horns. When your calf is very young you will feel little stubs between its ears – these are horn buds. The farmer who bred the calf will tell you that you will need to have a special paste applied to these buds so the horns don’t grow. The farmer may apply this before giving you the calf or your vet may be able to help you with this.
Inoculations (disease prevention)
Right from the first day you have your lamb or calf talk to the farmer about what inoculations it needs to remain healthy.
Lambs are treated at school for pulpy kidney. You will be notified when to bring your lamb to school for this injection.
Parasites – Internal & External
Internal parasites are “worms” and the calf /lamb needs to be drenched for these.
External parasites are “lice” more common in calves. Getting too warm in their cover will encourage lice, so constant grooming and having days without the cover on will help. A pour on lice control is what is required, check with farmer or person you got the animal from. The farmer will be the best guide and will probably provide the drench/lice control as they do their other calves and lambs. If in doubt, talk to your vet.
Fitting a calf cover
Calf covers serve two purposes – they keep your calf warm and dry and also flatten and polish its coat preventing fading from the weather, and meaning your calf will have a shiny coat when it gets to Calf Club. Calf covers are easily made from empty meal sacks – but first check with the farmer or your parents that the sack is not made of plastic as it doesn’t “breathe”.
The ideal sacks are light and made of synthetic fibre in a woven pattern which allows air to pass through, while keeping the calf warm. A light soft blanket sewed into the inside of the cover will insure your calf is warm – but be sure it is a light blanket so the cover does not become to heavy for a small calf. Velcro straps sewn onto the front and back will allow you to remove it easily for grooming and will also allow you to increase its size as your calf grows. The ideal cover should cover your calf from its shoulders to its rear. Be sure to watch for rubbing of hair or skin under the velcro straps.
Fitting a halter
Calf halters and leads can be purchased from your local rural supply store. They are made of soft leather and can be adjusted so they fit very small, and quite large calves. Halters are fitted for around one hour each day of the calf’s life with you – leaving it on longer would rub hair off. As soon as possible after your calf arrives, fit the halter with the help of an adult.
When fitted correctly, you should be able to fit two fingers between any part of the halter and your calf’s skin, and it should not pull off if the calf pulls back.
At first your calf will notice the halter as it will feel strange. It may try to rub against you, the fence or the ground to try and remove it. The best time to put the halter on is just before feeding when the calf will be distracted by the milk and forgets about the halter.
A cover for a lamb would be purely optional. The same principles for fitting would apply as for calves.
Fitting a collar
Collars and leads can be purchased from your local rural supplies store. The collar once in place can stay on the lamb. When fitted correctly, you should be able to fit two fingers between any part of the collar and your lamb’s skin, and it should not pull off if the lamb pulls back. As your lamb grows check the collar regularly and loosen it off as you need to.
TRAINING YOUR CALF OR LAMB
Always talk to your calf/lamb and be their friend, they will respond to you and be your friend back. If you find this difficult tell them about your day or what you would like to do in the holidays etc. The friendlier they are the better they will perform for you at Calf Club.
When the calf/lamb appears to accept the halter/collar, you can begin to teach it to lead. There are several ways to do this – you can pull and tug, or you can get an adult to help you tie a long soft rope into a big loop – big enough to fit around your calf’s/lambs bottom, under its tail, with the rope coming over its back and through the loop on the halter. Now, when you pull the rope, the rope will come up under the tail and it will move forward. As it moves forward, the pressure under it’s tail stops, and so it learns to move forward. This way often trains a calf/lamb in a shorter time than any other method. You must never use chain for leading.
Basically, you are going to train your calf/lamb to do three things on the lead – to walk forward alongside you, to turn when required and to stop.
Position when leading
You want you calf/lamb to walk to your right, and for its head/shoulder to be alongside you. Your right hand holds the lead close to the halter/collar (around 15 –25 cm from the side of their head), with the rest of the lead in your left hand so it’s not trailing on the ground where you or your calf/lamb can walk or trip on it.
Remember to never wrap the lead around your hand – this is very dangerous as it could mean you are dragged if they get a fright and attempt to run away from you.
If you have followed the steps described above, you will move your calf/lamb moving happily forward with you.
Now you have to learn to turn them. Remember you are on the outside of them when they turn, so you need to push its head towards the new direction as you begin to make the turn – and remember, the turns need to be very big at the start as they won’t be used to this new movement and you don’t want them to become unbalanced and trip or they would get a fright and lose confidence in you.
You also need to learn how to stop your calf/lamb. This is done by a gentle pull on the lead and shouldn’t be done suddenly which would give them a fright. Let it know you’re going to stop, by giving gentle tugs on the lead, and then a long pull, fixing your feet on the ground and leaning back a bit so the calf feels your weight on the rope, don’t give any hard, sudden pulls on the lead though as this would hurt their nose/neck. Remain still for a minute or more – the calf/lamb only moving forward again when you decide to.
How often and how long to train
Start with a few minutes training each day. After each session, praise and pat your calf. When it is happily going forward you take off the “bottom rope” and just have your lead attached to the halter/collar.
Varying your leading routine
Remember to vary the routine when you walk your calf/lamb – at first go in straight lines and, when you turn, make sure the calf is on the inside of the turn (and you are on the outside). As they get more used to going for walks with you, vary the route you take – walking past ”different” things which might distract them so, by the time Calf Club comes along, they will be almost “bomb proof” – used to all sorts of sights and sounds. Be sure to walk the calf in various patterns too – circles, loops, zig zags – but remember that it has four legs, so don’t make sudden turns which could make then lose their balance or confidence.
Training time should be fun, for you and them, so do train every day, but don’t train for so long either of you gets bored or tired. Don’t forget to giver them praise when they do well and claves and lambs love hugs too!
Leading in preparation for Calf Club
As a general rule at Calf Club you will have to lead your calf/lamb in a large square, walking it around pegs in the corners and doing a complete circle around one peg. You also have to stop them and make them stand still so the Judge can look at it more closely (the layout and routine for leading may vary from school to school). Practise these movements – and don’t forget the standing still training.
Teaching your calf/lamb to tie up
You can now begin to train your calf/lamb to tie up. For the first attempts, use the long soft looped rope, but do not tie the other end to a post – simply wrap the end of the rope around a post and keep hold of it. The calf/lamb may pull back, but the rope will come up under their tail and it should walk forward. When they don’t pull back, make a fuss of them, release the rope and go for a walk. Repeat this each day, briefly, until they don’t pull back. You can then tie them with its lead to the post. In the early days of tying up, don’t walk away form them as they will just try to follow you. Instead use this time as grooming time, spending time with them and talking to them.
You will need some grooming equipment – a bucket, some soap or animal shampoo, a small piece of old towel or sponge for washing, an old towel for drying and a soft brush for grooming. Each day remove the cover and brush it all over – remember you are brushing the hair, removing dirt and dust, not rubbing the skin so don’t push too hard as your calf will move away from the pressure of the brush. Calves normally love this time, as the brush removes all the itches from its coat and also the hard to reach places that it can’t reach.
Washing you calf
Your calf should not be washed within three days of Calf Club – this is so your calf’s coat has its natural oils on the day of Calf Club. You may, however, choose to wash it when it is younger so it is used to the feeling of warm water and soap on its coat – but remember:
• Only wash your calf on a warm day and with plenty of sunshine so its coat dries before the day becomes dark and colder.
• Use a mild soap or shampoo; wet the coat thoroughly with warm water and rub in enough soap to get a good lather. Massage the coat and skin so you get all the dust, dirt and scales of skin out before you rinse it – preferably with a soft stream
of warm water from the hose ( if it’s a warm day the hose water should be warm enough).
• Be sure to rinse all the soap out of the coat because any residues of soap will limit the amount of shine you will get from the coat when its dry.
• Scrape your calf’s coat with the side of your hand to remove the surplus water and then briskly rub it all over with the towel.
• Your calf’s coat will still be damp, so you should brush it to lay the coat down flat and leave the calf tied up in a warm dry, clean place out of the wind so its coat dries before you put its cover on.
You may know someone who shows cattle or horses that may share some of their secrets with you for getting more shine on their animal’s coats.
You will need some grooming equipment – a bucket, a small piece of old towel or sponge for washing, an old towel for drying and it would be optional to have a brush for grooming.
Lambs don’t require as much grooming attention as calves. The main things to watch are their bottoms for dags appearing and debris in their wool.
Washing of lambs is not allowed and you must never use any type of soap or shampoo on a lamb.
• To stop dags from forming keep the bottom area clean with warm water and a cloth by gently rinsing.
• The groin and under their “arms” can also be a problem area as “fribs” form.
They are stringy bits of wool that become thick with lanolin the natural oil of the lamb. These too can be gently rinsed out with warm water and a cloth.
• With debris in the wool just gently pick it out each day so it doesn’t form into a mass.
• Warm water and cloth can also be used to clean inside their ears and around their face and hooves if it is needed.
• Get Mum or Dad to check for lice now and again and fly strike could possibly be a problem in the warmer months. If either of these appears don’t hesitate in contacting the farmer or vet for assistance.
Brushing of lambs is optional. Most Judges prefer the natural look of the wool and brushing a lamb makes its wool fluffy and is very labour intensive.
The Judge will be watching your calf to see how obedient it is so you will want your calf to be leading well and obeying your instructions to turn and stop.
Rearing & Grooming
The Judge will be looking to see how well it has been reared (fed, groomed and cared for). You must present the calf in spotless condition;
• Coat clean and thoroughly brushed so there are no loose hairs or dust.
• Feet clean – remember to wipe any earth away from its hooves
• Clean around the outside of its ears.
• Clean around its nose and eyes.
• Clean halter and lead.
The calf has to be well behaved and stand still to allow the Judge to run his/her hands over its body.
The Judge may ask you some questions about your calf – its name, when it was born,
what breed it is, and what you have been feeding it.
The Judge will be looking to see if it is a good example of its breed, and a great
example of a future dairy cow.
• Its mouth will be checked to ensure its teeth are in a line so it can chew grass well.
• Its head will be checked to be sure it has alert eyes and its ears are on the same angle.
• Its legs will be checked to ensure they are straight and strong.
• The Judge will run their hands over its back and ribs and will check its udder to make sure it has four teats.
• The Judge will then want to look at the calf from the front and rear to be sure it is balanced and may ask you to walk away from them to see how the calf moves.
All the points about rearing apply. The Judge will be looking at your calf to see if it is a good example of a dairy/beef crossbred suitable for rearing. The Judge will do the same checks as they do for the dairy type, but will not check the calf’s udder.
The Judge will be watching your lamb to see how obedient it is so you will want your lamb to be leading well and obeying your instructions to turn and stop.
Most Obvious Pet & Calling
The Judge will be looking at how quickly your lamb responds to your call, and how easily you can reattach their lead.
Rearing & Grooming
The Judge will be looking to see how well it has been reared (fed, groomed and cared for).
You must present the lamb in spotless condition;
• Wool clean so there is no debris, or dags.
• Feet clean – remember to wipe any earth away from its hooves.
• Clean under its arms.
• Clean around the outside of its ears.
• Clean around its nose and eyes.
• Clean collar and lead.
The lamb has to be well behaved and stand still to allow the Judge to run his/her hands over its body.
The Judge may ask you some questions about your lamb – its name, when it was born, what breed it is, and what you have been feeding it.
The judge will be looking at the growth, condition, style, crimp, fibre diameter and length of staple and discolouration of the wool.
CALF CLUB DAY (Group Finals in Levin)
A few days before…
Wash your calf following the instructions in this booklet. Keep training them lightly, and keep it covered so its coat is as shiny as possible on the day.
Tidy up the lamb and its wool every day leading up to Calf Club and try to keep it as clean as possible.
On the day
Have all the gear you will need ready to go.
• A bucket with any washing equipment so you can spot clean anything when you get there.
• A cloth and/or brush.
• Halter/collar and lead are clean.
• A water bucket so you can give them a drink at the grounds - remember to take a water container just in case there isn’t a tap at the grounds.
• Some meal/pellets and a feeding container, so you can reward them after a good effort.
Remember that you are on display as well as your calf/lamb, so be sure that you are neat and tidy and enjoy yourself because the Judges will be looking for signs that you are comfortable with, and care for your calf/lamb.