Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What to do with the  preweaned calf that 
is not ready to move?

Ann Hoskins with Vita Plus put together a quick summary of alternative courses of action for the preweaned calf that "is not ready to move."

The summary is found HERE.

The actions are:
1. Hold them back.
2. Group by size
3. Use separate pen


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Computer-controlled or Automatic Feeder
Internet Links - Part 2

As part of her presentation, "Thinking about? Already Partnered with? Computer controlled calf feeders" at the 2014 Calf Congress in Rochester, NY on December 10, Dr. Chris Rossiter Burhans included an interesting list of internet links. Two more of them are below - happy hunting!

Dairy Herd Management articles in 2014

The first in a series of two articles written by Maureen Hanson addresses the question: "Automatic Feeders - How are they working?" The author pulls together ideas from a number of sources in this informative article. At the end is the link to the Iowa State University fact sheets:
1. - you can see the title - Designing an automatic feeding system.

2. this fact sheet summarizes the results of an Iowa State survey of 20 farms using automatic calf feeders.

3. this fact sheet pulls together many facts about automatic calf feeders, considerations for increasing the effectiveness of these feeders and reviews the costs and returns of their use.

If you are really into the economic analysis of auto feeder use this web site has a working spreadsheet and a guide for its use for your dairy. Click HERE to go to the site - then scroll down to FACT SHEETS and select the spreadsheet or guide to download.

The second in the series of articles is in interview format. Three calf managers share their experiences: Jeanne Wormuth from Elba, New York with 16 pens and about 320 calves on milk (her picture is the third one in the article), Debbie Feldpausch from Westphalia, MI with about 280 calves on milk,  and Bruce Telleen from Monticello, IA with 4 pens and about 30 calves on milk.

 Click HERE to go to the article.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Computer-controlled or Automatic Feeder
Internet Links

As part of her presentation, "Thinking about? Already Partnered with? Computer controlled calf feeders" at the 2014 Calf Congress in Rochester, NY on December 10, Dr. Chris Rossiter Burhans included an interesting list of internet links. Three of them are below - happy hunting!

2012 Progressive Dairyman articles:
What we still need to know? Four experts in the field were interviewed. These were the questions:
1. How do you think automatic calf feeders have changed the way producers develop their calf-rearing programs?2.  What’s your number one piece of advice for producers looking at the technology?
3. What has your recent research work in this subject area shown?
4. What have been challenges you’ve seen in operations with automatic calf feeders?
5. What have been the most noticeable improvements in an operation that installed automatic calf feeders?
6. What questions still need to be answered related to automatic calf feeders?

Click  HERE

What we have learned from our automatic feeders. The roundtable features five dairies with these questions:
1. Why did you begin looking at the technology? What factors did you consider?
2. What were some of your biggest learning curves with the automatic feeders?
3. What's the number one thing you wish you would have kown before putting in your automatic feeders?
4. What has been the biggest benefit for your operation with the feeders?

Click HERE

Which automatic calf feeder is best for you?  Five company representatives were interviewed for this article with these questions:
1. Most industry contacts state that the inner workings of these machines, regardless of the company, are inherently the same. What makes your system unique?
2. What data or reports does your automatic calf feeder provide for producers? What future plans do you have in that area?
3. What future plans do you have for your automatic calf feeder? What excites you most about automatic calf feeding?
4. What advice do you have for producers exploring the technology?

Click HERE

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Variation in Calf Starter Grain

Chester-Jones at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center summarized their research data on calf starter grain intakes. These data are for many trials over a number of years.

The intakes are reported for two-week intervals from day 1 to day 42.

Daily Intake during 2-wk period
Age Ave Oz. Low Oz. High Oz.
1 to 14 1.9 0.9 3.0
15 to 28 13.7 10.1 18.1
29 to 42  33.9 28.1 39.1
[See at bottom for these data in metric grams]

I changed these numbers into percentages so I could see more easily the amount of variation of the low and high calves compared to the group averages.

Percent of Average Intake for Low and High Calves
Daily Intake during 2-wk period
Age Ave Oz. Low Oz. High Oz.
1 to 14 100% 47% 325%
15 to 28 100% 73% 180%
29 to 42  100% 83% 139%

No wonder it is so difficult to answer the question, "How much starter are the two-week old calves eating?" Well, it depends on the calf!

Worthy of note in these data is that the percentage variation among calves does decrease as they get older. Still, if we wean a group of calves based on "average" intake there are likely to be a significant number of calves that are well below our threshold consumption level.

My take home message? 

Among individually-housed calves I continue to believe that it is worthwhile to observe the variation among starter grain intakes. When raising my own calves in hutches I always identified the "laggard" calves. 

Among the younger "laggard" calves, I checked them again for a navel infection. When I started the weaning process for 5-week-old calves by stepping-down the volume of milk replacer fed I often waited an extra week on full milk for the few "laggard" calves that were eating far below the average amount of grain.

Reference: Hugh Chester-Jones and Neil Broadwater, "Calf Starters", proceedings of Minnesota Dairy Days, 2009. p.9

For those who are more comfortable in grams, here is the first table in metric.

Daily Intake during 2-wk period
Age Ave Grams Ave Grams Ave Grams
1 to 14 55 26 84
15 to 28 389 285 512
29 to 42  963 798 1109

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Does Using an Automatic Calf Feeding System
Always Predict Success?

Bentley and Others collected data from 20 Iowa dairies ranging size from 179 to 880 cows.These dairies had experience with their automatic calf feeder system (sometimes called "computer feeders") ranging from 11 months to 60 months with an average of 2.6 years.

The measures of success include calves dying, sick calves and rate of gain.

Success                    Average     Lowest     Highest     DCHA Gold
Measure                   Value         Value       Value        Standard Value

Dead (mortality)      3%             1%            10%          5%

Sick - scours            14%           0%             80%         25%

Sick - pneumonia    14%            0%            50%          10%

Average Daily
Gain (lbs./day)         2.3              1.25          3.5            1.6 or double birth weight in 60 days

What a huge variation in these success measures among these dairies!

My consulting experience suggests that calving pen management, colostrum management and group housing environment might just be other variables in creating such a wide variation among the farms. 

The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) Gold Standards for heifers is normally available at the website. Currently there is an update in progress so we have to wait to view these values until this resource is reposted. 

Reference: Bentley, J., K. Lager, L. Tranel, R. Lenth, L. Timms, and L. Kilmer, "Automatic calf feeding systems: Producer Survetys." Proceeding of 4-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference, June 11-12, 2014. pp 90-92.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Calf Management Ideas from
2012 Alberta Calf Study

The study by Doepel and Bartier, University of Calgary, included 13 farms ranging size from 60 to 300 cows. The calves, 755 Holstein breed, were observed over the period from February through June.

First idea: Measure the quality of colostrum before feeding it. About 30 percent of the colostrum samples from the 13 farms were below the commonly accepted standard of 50g/L. Just feeding more low quality colostrum will not deliver the goods to newborn calves.

Second idea: When measuring colostrum quality with a Brix instrument, use at least 23 as the lower threshold for "good" quality, higher is better. My observation: when measuring colostrum quality with a Colostrometer when it is fresh from the dam ("harvest temperature") look for a reading as the lower threshold for "good" in the green range where the stem reads 70-80g/L.

Third idea: Forty-four percent of the 755 calves had passive transfer failure (defined as below 5.2g/dl blood serum total protein). Because this number is much higher than the 30 percent of low quality colostrum samples something else had to be going wrong in colostrum management on these farms. Remember that quality is only one leg on the three-leg stool supporting immunity - the other two legs are "quickly" and "quantity." Feed enough high quality colostrum as soon as practical after birth!

Fourth idea: Feed lots of colostrum. They found a direct relationship between volume of colostrum fed between 0 and 6 hours and the immunity level of calves. That is, 3 quarts of colostrum is better than 2 quarts. And, for colostrum fed between 6 and 12 hours the same connection is valid - feed more and get higher levels of immunity. 

Reference: Doepel, Lorraine and Amanda Bartier, "Colostrum Management and Factors Related to Poor Calf Immunity." Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, March 11-14, 2014. WCDA Advances in Dairy Technology 26:137-149.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

One or Two Colostrum Replacer Feedings?

Neave and Others reported on a study that compared two treatment groups: One group received one 3 -liter colostrum replacer feeding at birth receiving a total of 200 grams of antibodies (IgG). The other group received two 3-liter colostrum feedings, one at birth (200 grams of IgG) and a second at 6 hours after birth.

Here are the results for the two groups at 1, 7, 14, and 28 days of age:
[we like to see serum values above 15 to show successful passive transfer]

            Serum Levels (mg/ml)
Day of Blood      One Feeding     Two Feedings     Increase Due to 2nd Feeding
  Draw                                                                                   (percentage)
         1                       20                        28                                  40
         7                       13                        20                                  54
       14                       11                        16                                  45
       28                         8                        11                                  38

Not only does the second feeding result in a 40 percent increase in IgG levels at one day but this improvement persists.

For those dairies giving only one feeding of colostrum replacer with a total of 150 grams, these results should suggest that there would be a significant value in changing the protocol to include a second feeding near the 6 hour threshold.

Reference: H. W. Neave, Z. Cocker, and D. M. Veira, "Two Feedings of Colostrum within 6 Hours of Birth Improves Serum Immunoglobulin G Levels in Dairy Calves Up To 28 Days of Age." Proceedings of Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, March, 2014.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Using an Esophageal Tube Feeder
You-Tube Video
Dr. Sheila McGuirk

Make your day! Take 11 minutes to watch this great You Tube video. Dr. Sheila McGuirk made a presentation on esophageal tube feeders and their use at a PDPW meeting and that's the video - not the greatest video recording but dynamite content.

This video is found at Tube Feeder Dr. McGuirk .

This presentation is loaded with nuggets of calf management wisdom - honest, I've been working in this area for 26 years, I watched this twice, and I picked up several new insights.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vaccinating Calves - Guidelines

Dr. Amelia Woolums, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, prepared a short list of guidelines for vaccinating young calves that have circulating maternal antibodies [these are calves that received an adequate volume of good quality colostrum soon after birth]. 

" When developing plans to vaccinate calves with circulating maternal
antibody, keep in mind the following:

a. calves are more likely than adults to require booster vaccinations,
which should be given at least 2 to 4 weeks after the initial

b. intranasal vaccines may be more effective than injected vaccines in
calves with moderate to high concentrations of maternal antibodies;
however, immunity from intranasal vaccines may not last more than
a few months;

c. repeated doses of intranasal vaccines may not boost as effectively
as repeated doses of injected vaccines;

d. calves with very high concentrations of maternal antibody, such as
those found in the first month of life in calves with good passive
transfer, may not respond as well to vaccination as calves with
moderate to low concentrations of antibody;

e. vaccines should be administered so that the final dose is given no
later than 1-2 weeks before the expected exposure of the group to
infectious agents.

I was pleased to see that she emphasized booster vaccinations and final dose no later than 1-2 weeks before expected exposure.

The protocol failures that I turn up on dairies are mostly missing the booster vaccinations and giving the final dose too close to the expected exposure (that is, before grouping or re-grouping heifers).

[Reference: "Vaccinating Dry Cows and Calves: With what, when, and is it effective at protecting the calf?', Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, March, 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cow Factors that Influence Colostrum Quality

Dr. Fiona Maunsell, University of  Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, in her paper entitled, "Cow Factors That Influence Colostrum Quality" presented at the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar in March, 2014, isolated these nine Take Home Points: (text below is directly from the seminar proceedings - I added bold emphasis, however)

 “High quality” colostrum is first-milking colostrum that contains at least 50
g/L of the antibody immunoglobulin G (IgG), contains a low concentration
(<100,000 cfu/ml) of bacterial contaminants and is free of infectious
disease agents.

 Transfer of antibodies (especially IgG) from the blood of the cow into
colostrum starts about 5 weeks prior to calving, and is maximal in the last
2 weeks before calving.

 The older the cow, the better the colostrum – but there’s lots of individual
variation! On average, first-calf heifer colostrum is lower in volume and
IgG concentration than that from older cows. However, many heifers
produce very good quality colostrum. Don’t automatically discard heifer
colostrum; rather test and keep high quality colostrum from a cow of any

 Don’t automatically discard high volume first-milking colostrum if it was
collected within a few hours of calving; colostrum should be tested and
only discarded if low quality.

 Discard bloody colostrum, colostrum from sick cows, from cows with
clinical mastitis, from cows that are known to be infected with chronic
diseases such as Johne’s disease or Mycoplasma, and from cows that
leak colostrum extensively prior to calving.

 There is little evidence that nutrition, within the range of diets typically fed
to dairy cows, has much influence on either the volume or quality of

 Heat stress may reduce the quality of colostrum, especially in heifers.

 Dry period length should be at least 3-4 weeks to maximize colostrum

Vaccinate cows against the calf diarrhea pathogens E. coli, rotavirus and
coronavirus to maximize the amount of antibodies against these agents in
colostrum. Make sure that cows are vaccinated at the appropriate time to
optimize transfer of vaccine-induced antibodies into colostrum.

What a great collection of Take Home Points!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Colostrum Wins Yet Again

Good colostrum management wins yet again.

Windeyer and Others ("Factors associated with morbidity, mortality and growth of dairy calves up to 3 months of age" Prev. Vet. Med. 113(2):231-240 February, 2014) used blood serum total protein values from 2,874 calves from 19 dairies in Minnesota and Ontario to assess the degree of passive immunity transfer. In general these were well-managed calf enterprises averaging close to 2 pounds a day gain in first two months.

Among the six factors associated with risk of being treated for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) was failure of passive transfer of immunity. "A cut-point of 5.7g/dl was the most predictive of BRD before 5 weeks of age." Colostrum wins yet again if it is of good quality, fed ASAP and in great enough volume. 

Two other risk factors for BRD that caught my attention were the herd -level of incidence of BRD [Is there a lot of it going around?] and season of the year [Fall and Spring weather can be tough on calves].