Proactive leadership in the calf and dairy industry has led to the first nationwide production standards for raising Holstein calves from birth to six months of age.
The new "Gold Standard” benchmarks from the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) were released in August after more than a year of comprehensive input, discussion, meetings and literature reviews by a cross-section of industry groups.
The DCHA's Gold Standards will apply nationwide to Holstein calves, says Lewis Anderson, the group's president. They address production and performance expectations in six categories: mortality, morbidity, growth rate, colostrum management, nutrition and housing.
"This is the beginning of an ongoing process,” Anderson says. "More standards and a broader age group will be added over time.”
The association hopes that the release of the Gold Standards will raise the success level of its membership and the entire dairy calf- and heifer-raising industries.
"DCHA has provided the perfect opportunity to help raise awareness for raising a healthy cow,” says Gary Neubauer, senior veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health. Neubauer was part of the work group that developed the new benchmarks.
"The Gold Standards are a one-stop shop for calf- and heifer-raising information,” he says.
Separate standards for bull calves were not developed since the association gets most of its questions on replacement heifers, Anderson says.
Pfizer Animal Health sponsored the initial research and provided the funding to bring DCHA's Gold Standard working group together for face-to-face meetings. Pfizer also provided an industry perspective as the Gold Standards were being developed.