Thursday, December 31, 2015

Introducing Forage to Transition Heifers

If calves have not already been introduced to forage before they enter the transition phase post weaning the way forage is added to their ration can make a difference in their health.

Go over this new guide for introducing forage to transition heifers now in the resource library at Click HERE for access. 

Introducing Forage to Transition Calves 
  • Rumen Basics 
  • What happens in the rumen when we add forage to the ration? 
  • What happens if we feed too much forage too soon? 
  • A preferred forage introduction strategy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Managing Physical Barriers to Infection

Dr. Don Sockett, University of Wisconsin, in a paper on applied immunology cataloged seven physical barriers to infection. Most of these are open to our management. Review these details in a new resource at Click HERE to access this report. 

Healthy Calves: Managing Physical Barriers to Infection

  • Intact skin and mucous membranes 
  • Normal microbial flora 
  • Fatty acids in the skin 
  • Acid in the stomach (abomasum) 
  • Hair and cilia in the nasal and respiratory tract 
  • Enzymes in saliva, tears and intestine 
  • Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, urination, diarrhea

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feeding Space for Heifers

Does the amount of space for feeding affect heifers?

Try reading this new resource in the Calf Facts library. Access it HERE.

Feeding Space for Heifers 
  • Why is the amount of feeder space an issue? 
  • What about transition calves coming out of hutches or individual pens? 
  • Space issues for heifers between four and eight months. 
  • Space issues for breeding age and pregnant heifers. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dehydration - A Calf Killer

Dehydration is a common issue among calves suffering from scours or diarrhea. The new resource sheet with tips on dealing with dehydration is now on the web site. To access click HERE.

  • Why do calves get dehydrated? 
  • Preventing dehydration is more cost effective than treating it. 
    • 1. Reduce pathogen exposure. 
    • 2. Increase immunity to pathogens. 
    • 3. Feed free-choice water. 
  • Treating it requires timely measures appropriate to the degree of dehydration. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Keeping Colostrum Clean

The title of a new Calf Facts resource is "Clean Colostrum: Let Biology Work for You."
This fact sheet may be accessed at or just click HERE.

Clean Colostrum: Letting Biology Work for You 

  • Know how bacteria grow. 
  • Let biology work for you. 
  • Do not blend or pool fresh colostrum with that which is stored. 
  • Give high priority to keeping liquid warm feces out of fresh colostrum. 
  • Extend generation time by lowering colostrum temperature.  
  • Extend generation time by using liquid potassium sorbate bacteria inhibitor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dystocia Calf Care

Caring for the "hard calving" calf is always a challenge. This new resource on dystocia calf care has tips for what to do for these calves at birth and ideas for special care during their first two weeks of life.

To access this resource in the web site click HERE.

Dystocia Calf Care 
  • Calves less than 48 hours old receiving substantial assistance at birth had 36 percent mortality compared to 2 percent for calves with unassisted births. 
  • Calves between 2 and 120 days receiving substantial assistance at birth had 70 percent higher mortality rate compared to calves with unassisted births. 
  • Calves receiving substantial assistance at birth had 56 percent more respiratory infections compared to calves with unassisted births. 
  • For dystocia calves at birth be sure to stimulate breathing. 
  • For the first two weeks of life, identify and observe dystocia calves carefully for infections. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dehorning Calves

The new guide on dehorning dairy calves is now at the Calf Facts resource library. Click HERE to go there. If this link does not work try the URL,

Dehorning Calves 

  • Earlier is better than later. When using paste try to complete the process during the first week. When hot iron cauterizing three to four weeks of age is a good time. 
  • Use a local anesthetic and remember that more restraint is safer for both the animal and the person than less restraint. 
  • Less stress is better than more stress. Isolate dehorning from other stresses. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Colostrum Bacteria Control
8 Practical Steps to Reduce Bacteria Counts

This is the title of a new colostrum resource in the Calf Facts library. Access is at or by clicking HERE.

Here are the eight steps covered in the new resource checklist:
Step 1. Clean teats in the parlor. 
Step 2. Clean milker buckets including lids, valves and gaskets. 
Step 3. Clean pails into which to pour colostrum as it is harvested. 
Step 4. If milker buckets or pails are in the parlor, clean covers are used for every bucket before, during and after use. 
Step 5. Prompt feeding of fresh colostrum 
Step 6. Prompt cooling of colostrum if it is to be stored. [Did you see the new resource highlighted in the previous Blog on colostrum cooling?]
Step 7. Clean containers for feeding and storing colostrum. 
Step 8. Prompt feeding of warmed up colostrum.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Colostrum Chilling

The new colostrum resource sheet, "Colostrum Chilling" is now posted in the Calf Facts section of the web site. Access is at or by clicking HERE.

Colostrum Chilling 

Chill colostrum quickly if it is to be stored. 
Water-bath method 
Ice-immersion method 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pooling Colostrum

Should the dairy keep separate the colostrum from individual cows? Or, should colostrum be blended together or what we often call, "pooling?"

The new colostrum resource is now posted at or access by clicking HERE.

Colostrum: To Pool or Not To Pool? 

  • Pooling combines colostrum from two or more fresh animals. 
  • How? When? 
  • Advantages 1. Less time in parlor 2. Less space needed to store colostrum. 3. Less time cleaning equipment 
  • Disadvantages 1. Increased risk of spreading diseases carried in colostrum. 2. Increased risk of coliform contamination from the parlor. 3. Increased risk of passive transfer failure. 4. Increased risk of coliform contamination in stored colostrum

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cold Weather Bedding for Calves

"Cold Weather Bedding" is the name of a new resource, see outline below, at 

 Two ways to test the adequacy of our wintertime bedding. 
 Consider both conduction and convection heat losses. 
 Management tips for adequate cold weather bedding. 

The link to this resource is HERE.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Colostrum: Managing Shelf Life

Managing shelf life is a universal challenge for stored colostrum. This new resource is now posted at the web site. Access at or click HERE.

Contents include:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Using Bleach for Cleaning

Using a solution of sodium hypochlorite, most of us call this "bleach" to clean is both effective and inexpensive. Guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting are in this new Calf Facts resource with the title "Bleach: Using it to Effectively Clean and Disinfect: click HERE for this new resource.

Bleach Using it to Effectively Clean & Disinfect 
 Shelf life for bleach 
 Tables for bleach dilutions for washing, sanitizing and soaking when using household-concentration bleach. 
 Sanitizing equipment 
 Sanitizing milk – does not work

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Calf Management Letter
"Mixing Milk Replacer: Are You Using Best 
Management Practices?"

Enjoy! The link is HERE.

Mixing Milk Replacer:
Are You Using Best Management Practices?

·        Amount of powder is measured by weight.
·        Amount of water is measured in a calibrated container.
·        Temperature of mixing water is the same as manufacturer’s directions.
·        Blending is adequate to achieve solution of ingredients but not excessive.
·        Final mixing concentration is checked regularly. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Role of Colostrum and Transition Milk
in Calf Gut Development

Kurt Cotanch writing in the newsletter from the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute summarizes key ideas about calf gut development. He starts with the prenatal period and carries through feeding both colostrum and transition milk.

If you are not already familiar with this periodic publication from the Miner Institute please take a few minutes to discover its value.

The link to the most recent issue is:

Kurt also includes the link to the Penn State spreadsheet that helps make a decision about feeding milk compared to milk replacer:

"The Penn State website has a calculator to fi gure the breakeven cost of your milk compared to your choice of milk replacer when considering the economics of feeding dam’s milk. http://extension.psu. edu/animals/dairy/nutrition/calves/ feeding/das-07-116."


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chilling Colostrum

One way to reduce the bacteria load in colostrum headed for the refrigerator or freezer is to chill it down to around 60F (16C) before it is stored.

A preview of the practical fact sheet on the WHY and HOW appears below. Sorry, but no pictures - you will have to wait until this is posted online at later this year

Colostrum Chilling

  • ·        Chill colostrum quickly if it is to be stored.
  • ·        Water-bath method
  • ·        Ice-immersion method

In the first place, if we are going to feed colostrum within thirty minutes after it is collected, why would we want to chill it?  Obviously, the answer is that it does not need chilling. Just feed it promptly.

Why chilling?

We want to feed clean colostrum. Our goal is to reduce the bacterial load in colostrum in order to promote good gut health. Clearly it makes sense to avoid bacterial inoculation of colostrum as a first step toward this goal.  That means clean teats in the parlor. In addition, we need to start with clean collection, feeding and storage equipment.

In many cases not all our colostrum is going to be fed directly from the dam. If it is going to be held more than one-half hour until it is fed the colostrum is at risk of growing bacteria.

Why chill quickly?

Colostrum is very good bacterial growth medium – favorable pH and lots of readily available nutrients. Also, when collected from a cow it is at an excellent temperature to encourage bacterial growth.  By the way, we describe these growth rates using the term “Generation Time.”

At cow body temperature the generation time for coliform bacteria is about twenty minutes. Yes, that is correct. These bacteria can double in numbers in twenty minutes. That means in less than three hours after collection warm colostrum with an initial bacteria count of only 1,000cfu/ml (cfu/ml=colony forming units per milliliter) can have a terminal bacteria count of around 130,000cfu/ml! That is high enough to make a calf very sick.

One cost effective way to slow down the rate at which bacteria multiply is to lower the temperature of the growth medium – colostrum. For example, when we reduce colostrum temperature from 95 to 60 degrees (35C to 16C), coliform generation times increase from roughly twenty to one hundred and fifty minutes. Thus, if we want to cut down bacteria numbers that come from initial inoculation one alternative is to rapid chill the colostrum to at least 60 degrees. Then, when it is put into either a refrigerator or freezer the unit has plenty of time to do the rest of the chilling without the risk of excessive bacteria growth.

Farm-friendly ways to Chill: Water-bath method

In order to be “farm-friendly” a chilling method has to be simple and cost effective.

One such method is a water bath. Colostrum is transferred into containers smaller than milker pails or five-gallon pails. Most folks use calf nursing bottles. Others buy two or four quart plastic containers. Unless the containers are one-use disposable ones make sure that it is easy to brush all the inside surfaces.

Right-size the tub for the water bath based on your experience with colostrum volume. Larger farms may consider using several water bath containers for increased flexibility. Remember that for most efficient heat transfer at least ¾ of the container holding the colostrum needs to be submersed in the ice-cold water. 

And, avoid packing ice around the containers without water. This is not an efficient method of chilling because the ice water is needed to promote effective heat transfer. 

See picture below of a plastic water bath with nursing bottles. This farm purchased plastic tubs that fit inside their refrigerator to promote even better chilling. [Including what appears to be a workers lunch!]

Also, remember to close off the opening at the top of these containers. Note in the picture below the dairy chose to snap nitrile gloves onto the nursing bottles [by the way, at this dairy blue gloves indicated high quality colostrum and white glove indicated low quality colostrum.].


Source of ice?  Large operations should consider purchasing a used restaurant ice maker. Smaller dairies find it practical to use the freezer compartments of refrigerators or a small chest freezer for making ice. One dairy cuts the bottoms off of one-gallon plastic jugs to create big oversize hockey pucks of ice. Several of my clients repeatedly freeze “cold-packs” rather than use water for making ice.

Farm-friendly ways to Chill: Ice-immersion method

A second  “farm-friendly” method is adding containers of ice directly to the warm colostrum. An ice:colostrum ratio that works well to chill just-collected colostrum to 60 degrees within one-half hour is 1 quart of ice to 1 gallon of colostrum (1 liter of ice to 4 liters colostrum).

In general multiple small ice containers will do a quicker job of chilling compared to one larger container. For example, six 16 ounce recycled plastic soft drink bottles compared to one one-gallon plastic jug. 

See the picture below of a gallon jug of ice in a bucket containing about three gallons of colostrum. I took this bucket out of the refrigerator and removed the lid to take this picture. It is a good idea to cover containers of colostrum in refrigerators to reduce the thickness of the dry scum (mostly milk fat) that forms during storage.


A few dairies place the equivalent of 3 quarts of ice in the stainless steel milker bucket before milking the fresh cow. This procedure eliminates errors in remembering to add ice once the fresh cow is milked.

As shown above other dairies with more than a few quarts of colostrum to chill pour 3 gallons of colostrum into a five-gallon pail, add a one-gallon jug of ice, put a lid on the pail and put the entire pail-jug-colostrum into a refrigerator. The colostrum chills from the inside-out as well as from the outside-in.

One caution! When containers are placed directly into colostrum they need to have as few bacteria on their surfaces as is practical. Rinsing them quickly with tap water as they are transferred from the freezer into the colostrum is a best management practice. 

If these containers are used more than once someone needs to be given the responsibility of cleaning these each time they are cycled through the freezer. Also, the person cleaning the bottles needs to remember to avoid bacteria build-up underneath the caps where screw onto the bottles and jugs.

 Extended cooling may be desired

Many dairies have one person responsible for handling colostrum. In order to both rapidly chill colostrum and keep it cold until that person is available some farms extend chilling.

For example, after placing ice containers directly into colostrum for initial chilling the night shift workers simply replace the first batch of ice bottles with a fresh set as they leave. Or, additional ice is added to the ice bath to carry the colostrum over until the colostrum person is available. 

If an ice bath container is right-sized to fit into a refrigerator that solves the cooling problem. Another dairy immediately after harvesting colostrum places a one-gallon jug of ice in each stainless steel milker bucket and they go into a chest freezer to wait for processing.