Friday, February 28, 2014

Heat Treated Colostrum Wins Again!

In a recent research report efficiency of antibody absorption was compared between raw and heat-treated colostrum. Here are the facts (112 Jersey calves):

Heat-treated = 37%

Raw               = 32%

Average serum IgG concentration in the calves reflected this difference in efficiency of antibody absorption:

Heat-treated = 40mg/ml

Raw               = 35mg/ml

A.A. Kryzeer, S.M. Godden, R. Schell, " Effect of feeding colostrum that was heat-treated with the Perfect Udder system on passive transfer of immunoglobulin G in neonatal Jersey calves." Proceedings of American Association of Bovine Practioners, p. 171, September, 2013. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

What can you conclude if calves suckle before leaving the calving pen?
1. Except under unusually clean conditions calves received a substantial dose of E. coli bacteria before and during their first few swallows of colostrum when they begin suckling. If you can tell which teats the calf nursed (they are very clean) you can be more certain this is true. 

2. Since calves have to stand and begin walking in order to suckle, you can assume that suckling on teats is probably not all that happened. For example, sucking on the dam's brisket and flanks (remember all the little balls of manure on the hair in those places?). These sites are very productive sources of fecal coliform bacteria associated with persistent scours between 7 and 14 days of age.

3. Many calf care persons will be uncertain about how much additional colostrum to feed the newborn calf. The most common response is to not feed any more colostrum.

It is possible to estimate gut fill fairly accurately by feeling of the calf's belly. Using four quarts of warm colostrum and an esophageal tube feeder feed this amount to several calves that have not suckled. Before feeding, with the calf standing with her head against your belly slide your hands back over her rib cage until they reach her belly. Now, with your hands around her belly, estimate gut fill level.

Feed the calf. Repeat the gut fill palpation - note how much change has taken place. Repeat with another calf. After a few calves your hands will have quite a good sense of the difference between the "not-fed-calf" and the "full-calf."

If a calf has had an opportunity to suckle be sure to check her out - how full is she? Then make an educated guess how much more colostrum to feed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Group Housing for Dairy Calves
Today I found the Penn State webinar resource on group housing for dairy calves. 
Find it HERE.  

The four presentations are:
Group Housed Dairy Calves: Why you might consider it, pros and cons (20 images)
Resource person: Jud Heinrichs
Thinking About Group Housing? Key considerations for success 10,000 ft. view from the field (52 images)
Resource person: Chris Rossiter-Burhans
Creating a Productive Environment for Calves in Group Housing (63 images)
Resource person: Dan McFarland
A Novel Approach to Confined Calf Barn Ventilation (34 images)
Resource person: Curt Gooch
Lots of ideas to toss around before making the change to group housing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Everyone Knows the Dry Matter 
Composition of Waste Milk. Right?
Everyone knows that the dry matter composition of waste milk is 13 percent. Right?
No. Wrong!
I was pleased to find in a recent press release from Penn State the results of monitoring waste milk dry matter composition on nine dairy farms over a period fifteen days.
Farm  Average  Minimum  Maximum
#        D.M.       D.M.          D.M.
1          10.7        10.1           11.2
2          10.5          9.4           13.9     
3          10.1          9.3        10.8
4          10.5          8.6           11.7
5          10.3          8.3           11.0
6          10.1          9.0           10.9
7          10.2          9.8           10.7
8          10.8        10.2           11.8
9          10.3          9.7           10.6
Given the average dry matter from these nine farms is about 10.4 percent, the question is,"What rate of gain would we expect from feeding this milk to calves?"
If we assume a 90 pound calf in cold housing (20F) being fed this milk that tests 3.5% protein and 4.4% fat, then with the 10.4 dry matter waste milk:
Feeding  Estimated
Level      Rate of Gain
(Daily)    (Daily)
   4              Weight Loss
   5              0.5
   6              0.9
   7              1.3
   8              1.5
This can be compared with the same conditions feeding waste milk averaging 14% dry matter:
Feeding  Estimated
Level      Rate of Gain
(Daily)    (Daily)
  4               0.2
  5               0.8
  6               1.3
  7               1.7 
  8               1.9
1. Measure, don't guess, dry matter in waste milk - it's easy to be very wrong.
2. Higher dry matter does make a difference in cold weather feeding for young calves. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

If it worked for my neighbor's calf it should work for mine!
I just wince or flinch when I hear this. Borrowing treatments without a professional diagnosis is just asking for trouble.
The last recent case of this was a dairy experiencing and outbreak of something that was killing calves. The  calves seemed to begin with pneumonia-like symptoms. The antibiotic the farm was accustomed to using did not seem to make a difference. Even treated calves continued to go downhill and die. 
For a couple of weeks the farm experimented with antibiotics that appeared to be working for a neighboring farm. Disappointed results let them to finally request professional assistance.
Our diagnosis? Not feeding enough given the environmental conditions. With week after week of nighttime temperatures in the single digits (and often below zero) energy demands on calves for maintenance have been very, very high. This farm continued to feed two quarts of 20-20 milk replacer twice daily (mixed so that 10 ounces of powder makes two quarts).
Just not enough feed. No antibiotic in the world can help a starving calf. 

Borrowing treatments without a professional diagnosis is just asking for trouble.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Just Corn and Oats
I had a question today about home-made calf starter grain. The farm grows both corn and oats. They want to make their calf starter grain using these grains. What proportion of cracked corn to rolled oats should they use?
The answer is that no matter what proportion of these grains they use the resulting blend will be much too low in protein for preweaned calves. 
Book values of crude protein (let's not get into using metabolizable protein) for these two grains are: corn = 9.4 and oats = 13.2 percent.
Recommended protein level for young calves is 18 percent.
My suggestion was to talk with their feed dealer about a high-protein pellet that could be blended with their home-grown grains. For example, dealers often stock pelleted feeds ranging from 30 to 45 percent crude protein.
Alternatively, I suggest that a farm like this consider blending whole shelled corn with the high protein pellet. This can be used as the grain source up through four months of age. In order to manage this well the producer must remember to provide this mix free-choice; that is, do not let the calves run out of feed - we don't want them to slug feed because they were without feed for any significant length of time. Of course, water should be free-choice as well. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Read the Tag?
Think of all the barriers to reading a milk replacer tag. Fine print - yes. Tag is covered with dust and dirt - yes. Left my glasses in the kitchen - yes. Motivation level low - yes. 
However, once in a while one can pick up new information. I have to admit that I, too, am negligent about reading the mixing instructions on these tags. Last week I pulled the tag off a bag of Land 'O Lakes Cows' Match Jersey Blend milk replacer.
I read this:
"5 Gallon Mix: While stirring mix 6.25 lbs. of milk powder into 110-120degree F water and bring final solution to 5 gallons. Mix thoroughly and feed immediately after mixing. Powder should be weighted for precision and best calf performance."
Clearly stated behavior - do this, do this and do this. If a gallon of this mix weighs 8.6 pounds this formula gives you a 14.5 percent solids solution. When fed at tag-recommended rates (2 quarts twice daily first week, 2.4 quarts twice daily weeks 2- 7,
2.4 quarts twice daily week 8) it should deliver on a daily basis:
Week one  =  1 1/4 pounds powder a day
Weeks 2-7 =  1 1/2 pounds powder a day
Week 8     =   3/4 pound powder a day
Individual Calf:  
"Week1: While stirring pour 10 oz. of milk replace powder into 110-120 degree F water. Mix thoroughly and feed resulting solution (2 quarts) twice daily." 

Did I miss something or did you see anything about the total amount of 110-120 water? Is it clear to you or  just implied that ones starts with less than 2 quarts so that when you get done mixing you end up with two quarts?
Regardless of my confusion the calf drinks whatever you mix she ends up with two 10 ounce feedings a day - that comes to 1 1/4 pounds just like when you batch mix milk replacer. 
"Week 2 through Week 7: While stirring pour 12 oz. of milk replacer powder in 110-120 degree F water. Mix thoroughly and feed resulting solution (2.4 quarts) twice daily."
I am guessing that in this case I started with 2 quarts of water, added 12 ounces of powder, and ended up with 2.4 quarts of mix.  These calves get two feedings so they end up with 24 ounces of powder, that is, 1 1/2 pounds.of powder daily.
Why my concern over these tag instructions?
In the real world of on-farm calf feeding we have two different individual mixing protocols, one for very young calves and another for calves 2-7 weeks of age.
I think that there is a good chance that the calf care person mixing for very young calves will begin using 2 quarts of water and 10 ounces of powder. That is, use the same volume of water regardless of the age of the calf.
If the very young calf twice daily drinks all 2.4 quarts of this mix no problem. But if only 2 quarts are fed each feeding then the calf consumes about 8 ounces of powder per feeding - not the intended 10 ounces.

Alternatively (what I observed on one farm), the calf care person used the same amount of powder regardless of the calf's age. That is, for the very young calf they dump in a full cup (12 ounces) of powder into water, mix and add enough water to make 2 quarts. This mix will come out about 17.5 percent solids.

If the calf received excellent newborn care (calving pen care, lots of clean high quality colostrum soon after birth) this high-concentration milk replacer mix may not result in problems. But, what if this quality of care is not true? These calves could begin scouring badly and easily become dehydrated enough to die.
Win the Fight Against Parasites!
We have to be aware of all the ways in which parasites gain access to our calves. I was on a farm on Thursday this past week. I was impressed by the way the feeding equipment was kept clean. This was true for the waterers, as well. 
Then I noticed in two group pens of preweaned calves that hay was being fed on the floor of the pen. Ooops! Best management practice for feeding roughages (in this case hay) is to feed them in either an open trough or a hay rack with a solid bottom. 
These feeding practices reduce the time when calves are picking up hay off the floor where it may be contaminated with parasite oocysts or "eggs."
The fact that these two pens were "temporary" pens does partly explain the absence of proper forage feeding equipment. However, I would rather see small amounts of hay stuffed into the top of the grain feeding pails rather than on the pen floor. 
This is just a little thing but parasites like coccidia and cryptosporidia are such a waste of energy and protein for our calves. Any little inexpensive thing we can do to reduce exposure makes sense to me.