Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hard Calving and Cold Weather
 Calves experiencing difficult deliveries may need extra attention in cold weather conditions. Christine Murray, University of Guelph, presented " Newborn Calf Vitality: Risk factors, characteristics, assessment, resulting outcomes and strategies for improvement" at the Calf Congress 2013: Growing the Next Generation, RIT Inn and Conference Center, Rochester NY December 4-5, 2013.
As part of her presentation Ms. Murray talked about problems with thermoregulation among dystocia or hard delivery calves. She observed these calves may experience:
  • Depending on the degree of stress, calving environment and season of birth, maintaining homeostasis can be challenging.
  • Decreased available energy needed for the mobilization and metabolic activity of brown adipose tissue [fat] during non-shivering thermgenesis.
  •  Reduced muscle tonicity, preventing shivering.
  • Less able to withstand cold stress.
 Thus, we can conclude that extra measures to get these dystocia calves dry and into a modified (warmer than outdoors) environment should improve survival rates. Let's think about:
  • Getting the calf dry. For a resource on drying calves, click HERE
  • Having available a space that is above freezing - maybe a hutch with a heat lamp, a purchased box with a heater and fan - to house the calf for at least the first few hours after birth.
  • Using a calf blanket. For a resource on calf blankets, click Blankets
  • Feeding plenty of high quality WARM colostrum within the first two hours after birth.
  • Bedding her pen/hutch with plenty of long straw so she can nest. If in an open pen setting, providing something like a small square bale of straw to nest against.
  • Feeding an extra meal for the first week to push up milk intake by 20 to 30 percent.
 These few extras may make the difference between life and death for these thermoregulation-challenged calves. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Goals for Bacteria in Pasteurized Milk
What should be our goal for level of bacteria in pasteurized waste milk for preweaned dairy calves?  Zero? 100,000 cfu/ml?
In his presentation, "Calf Raising - A Systematic Approach to Health," Dr. Simon Peek (Univ. Wisc. School of Vet. Med.) listed several goals for bacterial quality control.
[Peek, Simon, "Calf Raising-A Systematic Approach to Health," proceedings of Calf Congress "Growing the Next Generation" December 4-5, 2014 RIT Inn and Conference Center, Rochester, NY, pp48-60.
These goals are:
                                                   Goals (cfu/ml)
Sample               Total Bacterial          Total Coliform          Total E. coli              
Type                   Count                        Count                        Count
Colostrum          <100,000                   <10,000                    <1,000
Waste milk        <500,000                   <200,000                   <1,000 
Pasteurized        <20,000                     <1,000                       <100
Waste Milk
Milk Replacer   <10,000                     <1,000                       0
In my consulting practice I use somewhat more conservative goals that I have identified as associated with superior calf health. 
They are (Leadley's on-farm goals):
  Goals (cfu/ml)
Sample               Total Bacterial          Total Coliform          Total E. coli              
Type                   Count                        Count                        Count
Colostrum          <50,000                    <5,000                       <500
Waste milk        <500,000                   <200,000                   <1,000 
to be pasteurized
Pasteurized        <5,000                       <500                         0
Waste Milk
Milk Replacer   <5,000                       <500                         0
Bottom Line?
If you do not monitor by bacteria culturing on a regular basis you are not managing this important variable affecting calf health [regardless of the goals]. 
The Most Common Mistake in Mixing Milk Replacer

The most common mistake when mixing milk replacer is to measure out the final volume of water and then add milk powder.
Disclaimer: If you milk milk replacer powder for one calf at a time and each calf consumes the total amount of mixed product, then these comments do no apply to you.

For all of us that mix a large volume of milk replacer and then feed a fixed volume to each calf, this potential error applies to YOU.

I visited a farm yesterday to help confirm that the mixing protocol was correct. Their goal is to feed 15 percent solids. 

Their protocol using a mechanical mixer that both mixes and delivers the reconstituted milk replacer is to add water until they have about one-half of the desired volume. Then they add the total amount of powder for the mix. After this is blended more water is added until the selected mark on the side of the stainless steel tank is reached.

Actual numbers? Run in 35 gallons of water. Add 85 pounds of powder. Blend. Add enough water to come to 65 gallons total mix. 

Total mix weighs 559 pounds (that is, 65 gallons X 8.6#/gallon = 559).
Total powder added was 85 pounds. 
When total powder is divided by total weight (85 / 559) we get .152 or 15.2 percent solids.

Great! Now when they feed 6 quarts of this daily the calves receive just about 2 pounds of solids a day   (6 quarts = 12.9 pounds "as-fed" at 15.2% solids)

The most common mistake in mixing milk replacer?

Measuring the total volume of water equal to the amount of mix desired and then adding powder to that water. What would have happened if this calf care person had not followed the correct protocol? She would have started by filling her mixer with 65 gallons of water. 
Then she would have added the 85 pounds of milk replacer powder. What would have been the result?

Well, she started with 65 gallons of water. At a little over 8.3#/gallon that comes to 542 pounds. Then added 85 pounds of powder. Total weight now is 627 pounds.

When total powder is divided by total weight (85/627) we get 13.5% - not the intended 15% solids. So when she feeds 6 quarts of this 13.5% mix daily the calves receive 1.74 pounds of powder each day.

Does a mixing error make a difference?

So what? There is not much difference between 1.74 and 1.96; only .22 pounds. But, in a week that comes to over 1.5 pounds less feed. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Early Identification of Sick Calves
Donna M. Amaral-Phillips, U. Ky., in the most recent dairy newsletter reminds us of the resource, Early Identification of  Sick Dairy Calves Important to Their Survival and Future Milk Production.
The outline is:
1. Critical control points for colostrum management
2. Identifying potentially sick calves
     a. Step 1: Identify calves needing more careful evaluation at and just before feeding
    b. Step 2: Closer inspection (for calves with potential illness detected through questions
                    answered in Step 1) - with pictures
 3. Electrolytes important for scouring calves
     a. Calf symptoms
     b. Prevention
If you have not been to the University of Ky dairy website try it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I walked in and the calves all got up!
I was re-reading the paper, "Group Housing and Feeding Systems for Calves - Opportunities and Challenges," written by Bob James and Kayla Machado and presented in March 2013 at the Western Dairy meetings in Reno, NV.
As a result of their study of eleven dairies in Virginia and North Caroline in the summer of 2011 they made this observation about calf behavior:
"When calves are fed twice daily in individual pens, they respond to people entering the barn through increased activity and vocalization. Calves fed via an autofeeder system will not respond to people entering the pen. If a calf does so, it usually means that they have not been trained to the feeder or there is an equipment malfunction." [bold my editing]
When I read this I recalled going into a barn with ad lib acidified feeding stations with the calf manager. When we went into one pen nearly all the calves got up. The care giver immediately said, "Something is wrong." After searching for a few minutes she found that a worker had closed a valve while servicing the feeding equipment and forgotten to open it again to allow the calves to drink.
Much of effective calf management is knowing what is "normal" behavior of calves and recognizing when they are behaving abnormally. This applies to groups of calves as well as individuals. This one of the reasons I encourage managers of group-housed calves to spend time observing their charges - especially the younger ones less that a month old.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Be Sure to Feed What You Intend to Feed
We have to be careful when we do our calculations. One of the most common errors in mixing milk replacer is the confusion over how much powder is mixed with water. This is often an issue when setting an automatic feeder. 

Let me quote from a paper, "Group Housing and  Feeding Systems of Calves - Opportunities and Challenges," by Bob James and Kayla Machado, VPISU in Reno on March 7, 2013.
"When milk replacer is used, powder is diluted with water to approximately 13o15% solids. Caution is advised when specifying dilution as most autofeeding systems express the grams of milk replacer to add to each liter of water. 
Therefore, 150g added to a liter of water is not 15% solids but 13% (1,000ml water + 150g of powder = 1150 final weight. Therefor, 150g of powder divided by 1150g of total weight = 13% solids."
Ooooops! We thought we were feeding 15% solids and actually only feeding 13%!
Many thanks to Bob and Kayla for bringing this to our attention. 

If you have access to SPAC (Searchable Proceedings of Animal Conferences) this paper is in the 2013 section of the Western Dairy Conference proceedings.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Separating Water and Grain Pails
 I was in a calf barn recently that expanded and set up a new section of pens. This is what I saw. Note the placement of the grain and water feeding pails - lots of separation.

The calf care person and I  had talked in the past about the advantage of water and grain pail separation. That is, compared to pails that are placed against each other this separated placement means that less water is transferred into the grain by the calf. And, because the grain does not get as wet, calves consume more grain leading to better dry matter intakes.

I was pleased to see that now with the new pens the pails are separated.

For additional pictures courtesy of Al Kertz, you may visit www.calffacts.com and scroll to "Water Grain Separation Pictures."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Housing Too Many Heifers
What to do for housing when you have too many heifers? This was one farm's solution - take over a bay in a machine shed. 

Put up plywood on the side to keep calves away from the metal siding.
Rip off some of the metal siding on the back for some ventilation. The front of the building where I was standing to take the picture is open. Air exchange is okay only on windy days.
Try not to overstock the pen - today these ten to twelve-week old heifers had a little over twenty-five square feet of resting space per animal. On one hand, that is substantially less than the recommended standard of thirty-five to minimize stress. On the other hand, that is quite a bit more than the less than fifteen before this machine-shed housing was set up.
This pen is quite labor intensive. Concentrate is fed inside the pen (see feeder at side) so a person has to climb in and out of this pen with a five-gallon bucket twice a day. Cow TMR is fed in the bunk (located where I was standing to take the picture) - so this has to be cleaned out by hand daily. Bedding is added from a skidsteer bucket - dumped in over the feed bunk and then spread by hand over the rest of the pen.

Overall, this "make-do" pen is better than the previous overcrowded housing. Nevertheless, barely half of the heifers escape this pen without being treated for pneumonia. 

In contrast, this dairy has just set up these three superhutches to solve the same problem. They will face some of the same challenges as the machine shed - overstocking can become an issue here. The day I took this picture they were making concentrate and water feeders for these hutches. It looked to me as if a person was going to have to get into each pen to feed grain and/or forage. Water tanks were planned for the downhill/front end of each pen to be filled with a hose from a non-freezing hydrant. Bedding will have to be done by hand.
Overall, this housing is better than an overstocked bottom of an old bank barn with non-existent ventilation. My experience with this housing was a very low rate of pneumonia treatment, good growth rates, and some extra hand labor for grain and water feeding especially during freezing weather.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How not to use electrolytes?
The calf care person spots a calf with scours. Lots of loose manure in her pen.
What to do? Aha! Feed electrolyte to her. At her next milk/milk replacer feeding dump in the electrolyte powder and presto! All done!
What is wrong with this description? "All done" is the big mistake here. Set aside your concern whether or not the electrolyte is formulated to be fed with milk. There is no effort to get the calf to drink extra fluids. In addition, by adding an additional three to four ounces of powder the dry matter concentration was being pushed up well above "normal" for either milk or milk replacer.
During a recent series of four farm visits this was the protocol for treating scours on all four farms. Just dump a packet of electrolyte powder into the calf's milk. Did I just happen to visit four farms that were unusual or is this really a common practice? This did get me thinking about the need to show calf care persons how to mix electrolyte powders with water. Is it any surprise that the folks I talked with were not impressed with the effectiveness of electrolytes in treating diarrhea?
I have seen estimates that calves with diarrhea often pass six to eight quarts of fluid daily. On one hand, if free-choice or ad lib. water is provided there is a chance the calf with drink enough to maintain an adequate hydration level. On the other hand, in my experience many scouring calves need to receive some extra encouragement to consume enough fluids.
I always made at least one extra visit to these calves to deliver either a bottle or pail with a warm electrolyte solution.  My success rate for getting calves to drink extra fluids was best when I made these visits between regular feeding times. And, I admit it was not convenient to go back to calves with severe scours at 8:00 or 9:00 pm when they needed a two bottles of electrolytes per day (four quarts).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Not Possible to Get 75% Above 5.5
This statement is made about blood serum total protein values for dairy calves on commercial dairies. I just finished summarizing the latest data for a dairy that seems to suggest this is not true.
One of my clients bleeds all of the calves between 36 and 72 hours of age. In the past 12 months for which I have data that is 683 calves.
The percent of calves at 5.5 and greater:
Date of Summary   Percent 5.5 &>
October 2012               95
January 2013               93
April 2013                   87
July 2013                     83
October 2013               94
I checked records and found only 24 calves in this period had BSTP below 5.0.
  • All calves get first feeding of colostrum within 2 hours of birth.
  • All colostrum is checked for antibody concentration with highest quality fed first feeding to these heifers; nothing below 50g/L or 22 Brix.
  • All calves (small calves an exception) receive 4 quarts colostrum first feeding.
  • All calves receive an additional 2 quarts of high quality colostrum in the next eight hours. 
  • All colostrum samples for monitoring bacteria levels less than 5,000 cfu/ml coliforms, less than 50,000 cfu/ml standard plate count. 
 Just do all these right all the time! [Yes, I do admit that among all my clients, this dairy does the best job of colostrum management.]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Practical Ways to Chill Colostrum
One way to reduce the frequency of scours among young calves is to feed clean colostrum. As a best management practice we want to feed colostrum before bacteria in it can multiply - a practical goal is within one-half hour after it is collected.
However,  many times we do not feed colostrum this quickly. Therefore, we are interested in chilling colostrum because the closer we get to 40F (compared to 100F out of the cow) any bacteria in the colostrum grow more slowly.
I took a picture of this dedicated colostrum chiller at a large dairy. Yes, it was custom made just for chilling colostrum. Works great but a bit on the expensive side.

More practical methods? Here are three on-farm ideas.

This farm chose to pour freshly-harvested colostrum into 2-quart pitchers purchased at Wal-Mart. The white ones shown in the picture were used for colostrum that tested the highest with a Colostrometer. Not shown are the blue pitchers used for the lower quality colostrum. As long as ice is floating in the water this method will chill colostrum from about 100F to 60F in 30 minutes.

This farm chose to wash 1-gallon plastic jugs. They were filled with about 3.5 gallons of water and frozen. As colostrum was collected it was poured into clean 5-gallon pails (about 3 gallons) and a jug of ice added. When ice is added at the ratio of 1 part ice:4 parts colostrum the colostrum will chill from about 100F to 60F in 30 minutes. This dairy has several used refrigerators so this pail went directly into one of them after a lid was added.

Many dairies that use this method of "bottles-in-colostrum" choose to freeze 1 or 2-liter soft-drink bottles rather than 1-gallon jugs. As long as the 1:4 ratio of ice-to-colostrum is followed chilling to 60F within 30 minutes will happen.

This dairy purchased a used ice machine at a restaurant auction. Using plastic tubs that were purchased in a size to fit into their second-hand refrigerator, they bottled off colostrum as it was collected. Bottles go into the tub, ice and some water are added and the whole tub goes into the refrigerator. There is a lid at the left in the picture so that tubs can be stacked if necessary.

Note the blue nitrile gloves over the nipples - after they test the colostrum for antibody concentration the bottles containing the lower quality colostrum get blue gloves and the higher quality ones get white gloves.

Do you have another idea that you would like to share? Just contact me a smleadley@yahoo.com or write a comment at this Blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How long does it take to chill colostrum in a refrigerator?
Why are we interested in chilling colostrum? We know that the time required for bacteria in colostrum to double (generation time) increases as temperature decreases. Thus, one simple way to reduce bacteria counts in stored colostrum is to chill it from cow body temperature (slightly over 100F) to typical refrigerator temperature (around 40F).

 Estimated generation times for coliform bacteria in colostrum are:
 20 minutes @ 100F, 
150 minutes @ 60F, 
12 hours @ 50F and 
greater than 24 hours @ 40F.

Using two used refrigerators in good working condition in the garage of our vet clinic during August I set them up with temperature sensors and data loggers. I chose to load them with selected volumes of colostrum in different kinds of containers at either 90F or 60F. 

So, how long does it take to chill colostrum to 40F in a refrigerator?

1. How warm is the colostrum when it goes into the refrigerator?

If we load 10 2Qt. nursing bottles at 90F they will arrive at 40F in about 24 hours!
If we load 10 2Qt. nursing bottles at 60F they will arrive at 40F in about 13 hours.

2. How much colostrum goes into the refrigerator at one time?

Assuming the colostrum starts at 90F in 2Qt. nursing bottles the time to 40F looks like this:
     Bottles  Gallons  Hours           Hours to Chill
                                 to 40F          to 40F if start at 60F
          2          1          10.7                    7.4
          4          2          16.0                    9.9
          6          3          18.9                   11.7
          8          4          21.2                   13.1
          10        5          23.7                   13.2  (80% reduction in chilling time)

My chilling times for bottles were measured with the bottles all pushed together as they are typically in an on-farm refrigerator.

3. What size container is used for the colostrum?

I used 5-gallon pails, 1-gallon bottles and 2-quart nursing bottles. Chilling times for all containers were very similar with a trend to slightly more rapid chilling (in 5-gallon lots) in smaller containers. Container size has only a marginal effect on chilling rate in this situation.

Bottom Line for low-bacteria count stored colostrum
  • Start with a low inoculation level - clean
  • Chill rapidly (no more than 30 minutes) to 60F before refrigerating or freezing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shock Loading Refrigerators
You are in a dairy utility room. A worker comes in with five gallons of colostrum fresh from the milking parlor. Open door of refrigerator, in goes the colostrum, close door of refrigerator. 

Question: What will happen inside the refrigerator during the next hour? Using two used refrigerators in good working condition I collected interior temperatures under selected loading conditions. I chose nursing bottles and a 5-gallon pail as containers. We chose loading volumes of three, four and five gallons of 90F colostrum. The data look like this:

                          Peak Interior Temperature of Refrigerator (F)
                                 Type of Container
                            5 Gallon        2Qt Nursing
                            Pail                Bottles
Volume     3         44.7               50.4
(Gallons)  4         47.5               54.6
                 5         48.3               59.4   
The interior temperature before opening the door to load the colostrum was approximately 34F. It is easy to see as the load volume increased the peak interior temperature inside the refrigerator went up.
Not so easy to anticipate is the significantly higher peak temperatures for colostrum stored in nursing bottles compared to the single  5-gallon pail. I placed all the bottles in the middle of the space pressed tightly against each other - in a cluster of 6, 8 or 10 bottles depending on the load volume.

On one hand, even if you follow similar "shock-loading" practices this probably will not ruin someone's lunch. On the other hand, if you have  temperature-sensitive products stored in this same refrigerator "yo-yo"ing up to around 60F once or twice a day may not be a best management practice.

By the way, when colostrum is chilled to 60F before loading, refrigerator interior temperatures do not follow this pattern.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

What happens when you feed milk more frequently in an accelerated feeding program for dairy calves?
The basic study design was to feed milk at the same rate to calves with three different feeding frequencies - twice, three time and four times a day. The feeding rates started at 4 qts/day for 14days, 7 qts/day for days 15-21 and 8 qts/day for days 22 up to 1 week before weaning at which time calves received 4 qts/day once a day for a week.
So, remember that all the calves received the same amount of milk in this accelerated or intensive feeding program. Only thing that varied was the frequency of feeding. 
No differences in calf health were reported. Starter intake was reported to be the same regardless of milk feeding frequency.

Rates of gain were by frequency of milk feeding:

2X = 730g or 1.6pounds/day   (56day total = 90.0 pounds gain)
3X = 760g or 1.67pounds/day  (56day total = 93.7 pounds gain)
4X = 790g or 1.74pounds/day  (56day total = 97.4 pounds gain)

All of these are very respectable rates of gain. A tough question is the cost effectiveness of 4X vs 2X feeding. What was the extra labor cost of 4X vs. 2X? What value do we assign to the extra 7 pounds of body weight at the end of the milk feeding program?

Any ideas from BLOG readers? 

McCullough, S. A. and Others, "Effect of milk feeding frequency and weaning age on growth and intake of dairy calves" JDS 91:E-Suppl, p221, #256 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cold Weather and Concrete
We all know how calves in a group pen like to lie next to something - a wall, a straw bale, a gate.
What if the wall is concrete? What if the wall if much colder than the calf?
  This picture was taken during warm weather. Note the calves lying along the wall in the background.
Now, fast forward to winter weather. This wall temperature will drop below freezing. Three changes will keep calves from being chilled along this wall.
1. Calf blankets will be put on calves as they go into the pen and remain on until around five weeks of age. 
2. A series of small square bales of straw will be added to line the concrete wall. Thus, calves will continue to lie along the rear of the pen but will be forced away from the cold concrete.
3. Long straw will be added on top of the wood shavings to promote "nesting."
Do give some thought to where calves lie down and the potential for losing body heat into adjacent building structures. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pasture Conversations
I have been reading articles in what is for me a new website, On Pasture.com. Click HERE to go to their "About" page.
You will find a variety of resources - the publication is trying to translate research and experience "into grazing practices they can use right now."

In their words, "So that’s what you’ll get from us: the best ideas and research, from the people who’ve been successful doing them, documented so you know they work, and translated into steps that you can start using right away."
If you have an interest in grazing dairy cattle I suggest you take a look at this resource.

Friday, October 4, 2013

We Soak our Bottles and Tube Feeder
"We don't have to wash our bottles and tube feeder because we soak them every week."
This comment was meant to excuse the calf care person from washing bottles and tube feeder after every use. She "rinses" her equipment after each use in hot water during the week. At the end of the week all this stuff goes into this sink to "soak clean."


She uses enough household bleach to create a 500 parts per million(ppm) concentration of the sodium hypochlorite ingredient. See Bleach Dilution Table.
Two problems here:
1. Not washing after each use allows the build up of biofilms on the inside surfaces of both bottles and tube feeder. Once these begin to coat these surfaces the effectiveness of bleach for killing bacteria drops dramatically. If you can either see or remove with a fingernail the biofilm from a surface the chances of killing bacteria with soaking is not much over zero. For more than you want to know about biofilms click on this: Biofilm
2. The standard ppm for soaking (see bleach dilution table) is  2,000, not 500. This assumes that the equipment does not have a significant biofilm.
My best bet for solving her "persistent scours problem" in this sanitation situation? Just bite the bullet and wash all the equipment after every use. Click HERE for an effective washing protocol.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whole Milk vs. Milk Replacer for Calves
Today I was asked about feeding whole milk to calves rather than milk replacer.
Here is the situation. The owner buys cheap bull calves at a sale barn. He has been feeding milk replacer. Last week a nearby dairy offered him waste milk free - just come get it. His question was essentially, "Would feeding whole milk be better for the calves than milk replacer [he was feeding 20-20]?"
I explained that as an energy source waste milk at roughly 4.0 percent fat is substantially higher in energy than his 20-20 milk replacer. In fact the waste milk is likely 50 percent higher in energy!
However, on the downside, waste milk can be quite variable in both composition and dry matter. That is, dry matter on just the one farm could easily vary from 11 to 15 percent solids. This fluctuation can encourage scours in calves compared to a fixed dry matter percentage. How much of a risk? Probably low but present. 
Protein and fat levels can go up and down, too. This may be less of an issue given these levels are higher than the milk replacer he is presently feeding. 
I recommended that on several different days he get samples of the milk that is being offered. Freeze them and get them to a lab to be cultured for bacteria. Coming out of the cows the bacteria levels are likely to be acceptable for feeding calves. But, depending on post-collection handling, waste milk bacteria counts often approach 1,000,000 cfu/ml - very, very high and unacceptable for feeding calves. 
I have to admit that I did not get information from him about the bacteria counts of the "as-fed" milk replacer on his operation. I hope this was not too great an omission. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

EZ Nursing Bottle with a Peach Teat
A client called yesterday. They use the 3-quart nursing bottles sold by Milk Specialties with the name "Advance E-Z Nurse." These bottles work well with their bottle holders. However, they wanted to take advantage of Peach Teat technology. If you are unfamiliar with Peach Teat technology click Peach Teat .

Our in-house problem solver came up with this solution. This is a picture of the original equipment - 3-quart E-Z Nurse bottle, white screw ring and nipple.

He removed the screw ring and sat the nipple on a wooden cutting board. Using a very sharp utility knife he separated the nipple from its base. The cut was as vertical as he could make it.
The opening in the ring is close to the diameter of the retaining collar on a Peach Teat. Thus he could snap the ring and Peach Teat together. 
All that remained was to attach the modified nipple assembly to the bottle with the white screw ring.
  We have another satisfied client.
I advised the client to monitor this assembly for milk residue buildup where the two parts come together. That appears to be the only weak point in this innovative adaptation.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Automatic Feeder Cannot Solving Building Problems
Calves on this farm were being fed with gang feeders - six nipples on each one with no internal dividers. Two feeders per pen of ten calves were filled twice daily with 3 liters of milk replacer per calf.
The calves were not gaining well, scours treatment rate was acceptable but the treatment rate for pneumonia was over fifty percent during the eight weeks the calves were in this pen. 
In order to improve the situation the automatic feeder was installed. The high pneumonia treatment rate continued as well as the low growth rates.
Look at the picture again. Don't look at the feeder. Look in the background. Barn has concrete/stone walls about 10-12 inches thick. There are eight windows on the far side that only open 1/2 way. No openings on the side behind us other than the door that can be left open. Ends of the building are solid. No mechanical ventilation. 
What are the chances that changing the feeding practice in a poorly ventilated building is going to solve respiratory illness problems? Would you agree the answer is, "Low?"
A chart showing desired air exchange rates for selected size heifers by season may be viewed by clicking HERE .

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Runny Noses and Coughing is NOT Normal
The children are back in school. In kindergarten when the children come together to share pathogens we tend to think it is "normal" for lots of runny noses and coughing.
But, for calves less than 3 months of age let's not fall into the trap of thinking that runny noses and coughing is "normal."
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association web site has a section called "Gold Standards."  [click HERE to go there] The section on morbidity - pneumonia shows upper thresholds for pneumonia (runny noses and coughing are symptoms) of 10 percent of calves treated between 1 and 60 days of age and 15 percent of calves treated between 61 and 120 days.
These pneumonia treatment rates need to be considered upper limits. It's much more desirable to have lower rates of treatment.
Calves need a good start in life. That means plenty of clean, high quality colostrum ASAP after birth. What a good way to reduce the chances of pneumonia! Click HERE for a broader perspective on preventing pneumonia or bovine respiratory disease (BRD).
With calves in cold housing we seldom can do very much about changes in the weather. However, we can take steps to be sure the calves have plenty of energy and protein beyond their maintenance needs. I am still seeing dairies with very traditional milk replacer feeding programs. As weather in the northern climate areas continues its downward trend into freezing conditions these farms will start their seasonal wave of runny noses and coughing.
Click HERE to see the estimated gains for a 90 pound calf being fed 2 quarts twice daily of  20-20 milk replacer at the traditional mix (8 ounces makes 2 quarts of m.r.) rate. Note how at even the relatively mild 40F this feeding program fails to meet even the maintenance needs of a 90 pound calf.
When feeding calves at Noblehurst dairy I switched from 16 ounces per day of milk replacer powder to 30 ounces daily. My pneumonia treatment rate dropped from 25 percent to 5 percent among calves less than 60 days old. This was year after year - not just some fluke in the weather.

And, after we switched to a step-down weaning program that allowed calves to come up on calf grain two weeks before moving to groups our group-pen pneumonia treatment rate also dropped to less than 5 percent.

No, runny noses and coughing is NOT normal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Myth: Young Calves Don't Drink Water

Yet another calf care person told me that they don't feed water to their calves until they are are around three weeks old. "Why bother feeding water to younger calves? They never drink any."
I was reviewing the findings about the effects of "step-up" milk replacer feeding programs (Quigley, J.D., T.A. Wolfe, and T.H. Elsasser "Effects of additional milk replacer feeding on calf health, growth, and selected blood metabolites in Calves." Journal of Dairy Science 89:207-216. 2006).

The research measured daily water intake for 120 calves from about 4 days of age. The Figure below shows water intake for "Days of Study" that started about at that age. Sorry about orientation - try turning your monitor 90 degrees?

Note how much opportunity for water consumption is lost between days 1 and 21 of days on the study. 

Reality? Young calves DO drink water - just not a lot of it. I found that feeding water at body temperature did encourage young calves to drink a larger volume of water.