Thursday, August 29, 2013

How much will a week-old Jersey calf drink?
I had the good fortune today to be invited to tour the young calf facility at New Sweden dairy in Minnesota. This joint venture between the Davis family and the University of Minnesota incorporated many positive practices in calf and heifer rearing.

Today the calf manager, Tom, took us through the climate-controlled units for calves from birth through about three weeks of age. Colostrum management is well done here and at last count this month only a small fraction of the calves had blood serum total protein values below 5.5 with most of them between 6 and 6.5. Three quarts of heat-treated Jersey colostrum (Brix averaging 24 to 28) fed within the first hour of life will do wonders for immune levels. 

The calves are fed pasteurized whole Jersey milk from two-quart bottles. They are fed a 4:00, 10:00, 4 pm and 10 pm. The first few days the bottles have only one quart in them. Around 5 to 7 days they are filled with two quarts. Tom says the nearly all of the calves are cleaning up all four two-quart feedings daily by ten days of age, many at seven days old. 

Yes, with this level of dry matter intake (around 2.2-2.3 pounds daily) the manure is pretty much like paste. So, who cares? The calves at 10 days of age look great - their body condition is just short of chubby - well, they have been gaining in the range of 1.5 to 1.8 pounds a day since day five! 

Tom says they are using protocols that deliver lots of nutrients with the lowest level of pathogens that they can manage. For example, when clean nipples come out of the washer they are handled  with freshly gloved hands. When the bottles are handled by workers with freshly gloved hands a lot of effort is put into avoiding touching nipples - the idea is not to have any contact between the clean nipples and the calves' mouths.

I asked about the need for limiting the milk for the smaller Jersey calves - ones less than 50 pounds. We saw several that I would guess were not too much over 35 pounds. "Nope," he said, "We offer 8 quarts a day and nearly all the small calves drink it just as eagerly as the larger ones." In response to my question about scours treatment rate Tom told us that it has been running about 5 percent this month.

Well, that gives me something to think about.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Never Assume a Machine is Working Properly:
Calibrating Automatic Feeders
Just had an opportunity to read carefully the presentation at the Western Dairy Conference by Bob James and Kayla Machado entitled, "Group Housing and Feeding Systems for Calves - Opportunities and Challenges." Click HERE for a pdf version of the full paper.

Of special interest to me was their observation from a survey of 11 dairies with automatic feeders that the Brix readings of "as-fed" milk replacer varied from 7 to 18! Yes, that is right, varied from 7 to 18. This variation was not intential, rather it was the result of not paying enough attention to both the weight of powder being added and the volume of water used.

Back to Mr. Murphy - if anything can go wrong, it will!

Moral of the story? Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate. If you are using automatic feeders that do not have a built in calibration cycle, James suggests weekly manual calibration. I might add, check the discharge throat on the powder delivery system to see that there is not a build up of powder solids there as well. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Antibody Concentration Really Does Stay the Same
In the September issue of the Journal of Dairy Science researchers report the same results as I noted in my previous posting. This work used colostrum from 24 cows, second lactation and later.
They divided the colostrum into 4 parts depending on stage of milk out - that is, 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75% and 75-100%. The average antibody levels for these fractions were:
0-25%    = 44.5grams per liter
25-50%  = 49.9
50-75%  = 49.8
75-100%= 47.2
Based on the number of cows the authors conclude there was not a statistically reliable difference among these values. 
(1) On the average roughly one-half of the colostrum collected was substandard in antibody concentration (adequate threshold being 50g/L).
(2)  Wide variation was present among cows in antibody concentration regardless of their lactation number.
(3) Wide variation was present among cows in total colostrum yield with 7/24 cows giving less than 4 liters (4.2 quarts), 13/24 cows giving between 4 and 8 liters (8.4 quarts), and 4/24 giving more than 8 liters.

(4) Fat concentration did vary by fraction with the lowest coming in the first 25% (3.8% fat) and the highest coming in the final fraction - 75-100% (5.7% fat)


Friday, August 23, 2013

Can I Strip Out Colostrum and Feed It?
This was the question I was asked by a dairyman as we discussed the challenges of feeding colostrum ASAP. He was wondering if the antibody concentration would be compromised by milking out just enough colostrum to feed the calf?
Fortunately, Dr. Sandra Godden at the University of Minnsota looked into that question. She found that stage of milk out when collecting colostrum does not affect antibody concentration.
That is, the antibody concentration in colostrum is uniform for all stages of milk out. This is different from the fat content that does vary by stage of milk out. 

So, my answer was, "Sure, if you can get the cow to stand still long enough to manually harvest 4 quarts of colostrum, more power to you." The first 4 quarts will be just as full of antibodies as the last quart harvested.

What actually happened? They have milker cans that you can see through. He put the milking machine on just long enough to collect a gallon of colostrum. Immediately fed the calf. No risk of bacterial growth in stored colostrum.

Not a solution for everyone but for him it works.

I might mention that this strategy has an advantage of which he was unaware. Collected and fed right away he was feeding viable white blood cells to the calf that end up in her blood. These white blood cells provide instant immunity in the calf just as if they were in the cow. And, they act to provide guidance for the calf's immune system in producing her own antibodies appropriate to the farm where she was born. Just nothing like fresh colostrum!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just Soak it!
Honest. This was the response to my suggestion that scrubbing the milker collection buckets would help decrease bacteria counts in the client's colostrum. 
 I took this picture of the milker can. 

You cannot disinfect dirt!

For quick review on disinfecting click on these two links for a two-part review:
Click here for Part 1 Cleaning Part 1
Click here for Part 2 Choosing an efficient disinfectant and Using Part 2