Swipe to the left

What Makes a good calf rearer?

What Makes a good calf rearer?
By Jessica Charlton 1 years ago

What Makes a good calf rearer?During my visits on farm I have found a common topic keeps popping up- staff; lack of it and lack of quality staff.  Recently we found ourselves without a calf rearer on the farm and, this got me thinking;

  • What makes a good calf rearer?
  • What qualities should we be looking for?
  • How can the right person improve performance of calves on the unit?

Key Qualities

Attention to detail

The most important quality of a calf rearer is attention to detail. A calf rearer should not just be aware of what is going on with the calves but also the wider picture; what are the dry cows like? Do they have enough room? Is the yard frequently cleaned and disinfected, is the ration correct? Was it a bad calving? Did calf 3869 drink its allocation? What was 3690s temperature this afternoon? Was the calf out of a heifer? Which colostrum did it get, when and how much?...

A calf rearer shouldn’t just be focused on the calves but should understand everything else that could have an impact on that calf. Attention to detail is also vital when to comes to following protocols, ensuring that procedures are followed and anything out of the ordinary is picked up quickly.


Patience is key when it comes to calf rearing. Calves can be incredibly frustrating, and it takes a level head to keep calm in stressful situations. I know what it’s like when there are 100 hungry mouths to feed and they don’t want to drink or they keep knocking their pen mates off the teat, or they knock over their recently cleaned and filled water trough, or they stop drop and roll when you try to stomach tube them … yes calves can be hard work! However, I don’t buy into the saying that “women make the best calf rearers” anyone who is empathetic and has a bit of patience can make a good calf rearer. Yes, at times it can be difficult and stressful but calf rearing can also be one of the most rewarding jobs on the farm! After all, they are the future of the herd.

“Anyone who is empathetic, and patient can make a good calf rearer.”


A calf rearer should care about what they do, taking pride in the work they carry out.  They should have the calves welfare at the forefront of their mind.


The individual responsible for the calves should be ambitious to improve health, increase growth rates and reduce mortality. Setting targets can help focus your calf rearer, giving them goals is also a useful tool in measuring employee performance. A good calf rearer should strive for excellence!

Strong willed

Being strong willed is very important for a calf rearer- all too often calves get forgotten about- “just find a space for them in that old shed” or “just leave it, it will be ok until the morning”, or the one we hear most “there isn’t enough time to clean that out” it is important that the calf rearer fights the corner for the calves. Someone would will go above and beyond, put their foot down and insist that everything gets done to the highest possible standard and doesn’t accept shortcuts.


It’s important that your calf rearer is given the correct tools for the job. Investing in training is important. If you would like a member of your calf rearing team to receive some training please contact your local Wynnstay calf specialist who will be happy to help.

Jessica Charlton

Jessica Charlton

Calf Specialist

m: 07990 584740

Email Jessica | Twitter


Posted in: Dairy Farming