Friday, December 28, 2012

Another Calf Resource
(free, too)

I took time on Thursday, December 27th, to review the content of a new calf management resource, Starting Strong. This multi-media resource is being developed by Vita Plus staff Ann Hoskins and Andrea Bloom. 

It contains well-done video clips. There are links to take you to resources that may be new to you. 

To subscribe (no charge) go to
When you get there read down the list of resources to STARTING STRONG. Click on "Subscribe." The subscription form is easy to complete and you are in business. 

The folks at Vita Plus invite you to sample the other resources on this same subscription page. 



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Delivering Milk at Calf Body Temperature
As I am writing this note the windchill outside is 6F. 
How about a list of tips on delivering milk at calf body temperature during cold winter weather? You will find this list developed at Miner Institute in Chazy, NY at Tips for delivering a warm meal.
 During cold weather I often had to change my feeding routine, as well. Recall that I was feeding calves in hutches in western New York. Anytime the windchill approached Zero rather than leaving the barn with my Gator loaded with all 90 gallons of milk replacer I had to load just one 30-gallon barrel of milk replacer at a time. Go out and feed this to calves, come back in to get a second barrel of approximately 110 degree milk replacer, repeat until all calves were fed. 
Ideas for feeding more energy during cold weather may be found at Feeding More Energy.
If you are not already using calf blankets you may want to review this resource sheet
Bundle up and keep warm. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

Christmas Day. I'm awake early as on most days. The habits of being in the barn to milk cows at 3:30 AM and then later getting up in time to be feeding calves at 7:00 AM are hard to break. Regardless of when you begin this day,  please enjoy your Christmas celebration.

All twelve years that I cared for calves at Noblehurst Dairy in Livingston County, NY I worked the morning shift on Christmas Day. My relief worker had small children at home while all four of Esther's and my sons were grown and married.

In order to make sense of my next comment you need to know that our 100 hutches were spread out in 20 rows of 5 along a county road. Every Christmas morning at least one and sometimes as many as five persons would stop their car and come over to speak to me while I was feeding calves. It was always the same story. "I see you nearly every day when I am driving past. This morning I just felt that I had to stop and wish you Merry Christmas." After a few minutes of conversation they would be on their way. 

I appreciated having them stop. They praised me for having such lively healthy-looking calves. And, from that day on they always waved or tooted their horn as they went by.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Colostrum Heat Treating

I ran across this great summary article by Maureen Hanson published on-line on Monday. Try it. You will like it!

Includes farmer comments as well as 7 tips for on-farm pasteurization of colostrum.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Lowdown on Calf Housing

What a great resource on calf housing.

This Washington State University Veterinary Medicine Extension publication reviews these aspects of calf housing including:
  • Ventilation
  • Resting, Lying, Bedding, and Hygiene
  • Cold Effects
  • Heat Stress
I noted a paragraph dealing with REM sleep and its relationship to resting space per calf.
"Calves need enough space to attain total relaxation and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Their environment also needs to be sufficiently warm for temperature regulation and to attain REM sleep."

Hmmmm. Does this suggest that overcrowding calves isn't the best managment practice?
What amount of clean and dry resting space do you have for your preweaned calves?

Monday, December 17, 2012

There aren't bacteria in MY colostrum.

Why do we try to deny things that we don't want to believe? A national study of colostrum revealed this about "total plate counts":
  • fresh samples 33% above 100,000 cfu/ml
  • frozen samples 39%  above 100,000 cfu/ml
  • refrigerated samples 77% above 100,000 cfu/ml
Not impressed yet?
  • fresh samples 12% above 1,000,000 cfu/ml
  • frozen samples 11% above 1,000,000 cfu/ml
  • refrigerated samples 38% above 1,000,000 cfu/ml
If we feed 4 quarts of colostrum contaminated with 1,000,000 cfu/ml bacteria to a newborn calf we have just fed 3,860,000,000 bacteria in her first feeding.

Now you can see why the first two questions I ask when trouble shooting scours problems on a farm is, "When was the last time you cultured "as-fed" colostrum samples for bacteria?" and "May I see the results?"  

When was the last time you sampled "as-fed" colostrum and had it cultured for bacteria.

Go to  for a protocol for collecting colostrum samples.  
Go to for bacteria standards for colostrum.  
Go to for another summary about bacterial contamination of colostrum.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rules for Using a Tube Feeder
The December 11 issue of Progressive Dairyman contains this note about tube feeders [slightly edited to put into bullet format]:

Dr. Sheila McGuirk, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine makes these suggestions:
  •  Don't use the esophageal feeder if a calf cannot maintain a sitting position or its abdomen is already full.
  • Don't use it to force a calf to drink milk or milk replacer unless you and your veterinarian agree that it is appropriate for an individual calf.
  • It is appropriate to use it to administer colostrum or electrolyte to a scouring calf. 
  •  Have enough tube feeders so that they can be cleaned and sanitized before reuse.
  • Have separate tube feeders for colostrum feeding and sick calf electrolyte feeding. [emphasis added]
I must admit to not following this last bit of advice. On reflection it does make sense given the weaknesses in on-farm sanitation procedures. Let me know what you think about this. 
Other resources on tube feeding:
or try this link for a teaching outline on tube feeding:
or try this link for Jim Quigley's summary on tube feeding:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Friend that Just Will
This time of year we see:
  • Wide swings in temperature from one day to the next
  • Low temperatures that challenge calves - especially those less than 4 weeks old
  • Too often not enough energy being fed to meet both the environmentally-determined maintenance needs and to allow calves to grow at least 1 pound a day.
  •  Irregular feeding of water or even no water fed at all to preweaned calves.
  • Calf barns being closed up to "keep the calves from being cold
For a great summary on pneumonia go this link:
Veterinarian Fred Gingrich of Country Roads Veterinary Services in Ashland Ohio say that to reduce treatment rates for pneumonia a calf enterprise needs to check its performance on:
  1. Colostrum management
  2. Ventilation
  3. Vaccination
  4. Nutrition
Enjoy and keep warm!           

Friday, December 7, 2012

Scouring Calves and 
Oral Electrolyte Therapy

Dr. Michelle Arnold, U. KY, in their recent Dairy Notes makes these points: (to subscribe go to  )

"In general, when oral fluids are indicated, they should be fed as an extra meal  to calves that have diarrhea. For example, if calves are normally being fed morning and evening, then oral electrolytes can be fed in the middle of the day. If this is not possible, then electrolytes can be fed along with milk (particularly the products that contain acetate or very low concentrations of bicarbonate).

Some experts used to recommend a "rest the gut" approach to calf diarrhea, suggesting that continued milk feeding worsens diarrhea. However, research has shown that milk feeding does not prolong or worsen diarrhea, nor does it speed healing of the intestines. Calves should be maintained on their full milk milk diet plus oral electrolytes when possible. [emphasis added]

If calves are depressed and refuse to suckle, milk can be withheld for one feeding and a hypertonic oral electrolyte product such as Calf-Lyte II HE or Enterolyte HE may be substituted. Milk feeding should always be resumed within 12 hours or blood glucose concentrations will drop too low and the calves get too weak to respond to treatment."

Moral of the story? Keep feeding milk to scouring calves. On a 2X feeding program I often reduced the amount of milk fed (for example, from 3 quarts twice daily to 2.5 quarts twice daily) for scouring calves along with one to two extra feedings of electrolytes. The total fluid intake goal was to get up to 8 to 12 quarts a day depending on the intensity of the diarrhea.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cyrptosporidia - Cryptosporidiosis

Spell this problem "diarrhea."

Research reported in December, 2012, Journal of Veterinary Medical Association.

  • Calves studied for first 21 days of life.
  • All calves given the same challenge dose of cryptosporidia parasites on day 3. 100% were successfully infected.
  • Shedding started on average at day 7 and lasted until day 13.
  • 1/2 of calves received "conventional nutrition" 20-20 milk replacer 15% solids roughly 2 quarts twice daily.
  • 1/2 of calves received "high plane of nutrition" 28-20 milk replacer 15% solids enough more to equal a 30% increase in nutrition.
"Calves fed the high plane of nutrition had:
  • faster resolution of dirrehea
  • maintained hydration
  • grew better, and
  • converted feed with greater efficiency
than the calves fed conventional nutrition." (p1518)

An aside: With this severe challenge the conventional nutrition calves actually lost weight during the trial while the the high plane of nutrition calves gained an average of one pound a day!

Bottom Line: Calves with more energy and protein available in their milk replacer ration were better able to deal with the crypto infection than calves with a limited ration. 

Note: December calf raisers newsletter, Calving Ease, is now posted at

Monday, December 3, 2012

Young heifers and cold weather

I was on a farm on Friday to look at transition-age (10-12 weeks) heifers. The problem was pneumonia.

One of the management challenges is feeding enough to meet both the maintenance and growth needs of these young heifers. While they were on milk (two gallons pasteurized milk per day per calf) and eating 4 to 5 pounds of calf starter grain they were healthy.

Once weaned and still being fed 4 to 5 pounds of grain per day they were energy challenged in below freezing weather. Only one-third of the bunk space was used for feeding grain (only 3 of the 6 heifers could eat at one time). Some grain was poured over a pile of very low-quality, late-maturity hay (truly heifer hay).

Moral of the story:
  • At this stage of development feed enough calf grower grain to meet both maintenance and growth needs (grow 1.7 -  2 pounds/day). I recommended free-choice feeding. I expect consumption will even out at around 7 lbs. per day per heifer.
  • Sweep manger clean each day so grain intake can be monitored roughly.
  • Take away the hay - no more nutrition than straw.
  • Spread the grain out over full width of manger.
Farm has no high quality hay to feed. But,  high quality haylage is being fed to cows. I suggested the farm start feeding this roughage at the rate of (as-fed) 2 lbs. per heifer per day for the first 7 to 10 days.