Friday, August 18, 2017

Take Time to Care for the Dystocia Calf

The August 2017 calf management newsletter is now posted at www.atticacows.com or click HERE to directly to the letter. 

The key points:
·  Calving difficulty, often called dystocia, affects between 13 to 15 % of Holstein calves.
·   Treatment rates are higher for dystocia calves (scours 17%, pneumonia 70%) compared to calves experiencing unassisted births.
·      Providing special care, both in the first few hours and first two weeks, can cut both death losses and treatments for scours and/or pneumonia.
·        Give lots of stimulation during first few hours.
·        Be sure to follow up for the next two weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Pneumonia Among Preweaned Calves Cuts
1st Lactation Production 1,155#

These were the findings of a research project completed involving 215 animals from 3 southwestern Ontario herds.

Calves were assessed using thoracic ultrasonagraphy weekly for the first 8 weeks of life. At least one diagnosis of lung consolidation was found in 57 percent of the animals. They were followed through their first lactation.

"The presence of lung consolidation [evidence of bovine respiratory disease] at least once in the first 8 weeks of life was associated with a 525kg (1,155 lbs) decrease in first lactation."

Given this study population, preventing pneumonia (bovine respiratory disease) was an important factor in allowing the animals to express their genetic potential for milk production. 

Reference:
T.R. Dunn and Others, " The effect of lung consolidation, as determined by ultrasonography, on first lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 100:194 July 2017.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Yes, Air Quality Can Make a Difference!
Increased BRD Among Group-Housed Calves

Seventeen dairy farms in southern Ontario, Canada, using automatic feeders for preweaned calves were visited 4 times over a year.

Sharing air with cattle 5 to 8 months of age was a significant risk factor for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) (p<.01) 

The range of BRD among the 17 farms was from 0 to 28 percent (median 17%). 

Air quality can make a difference for group-housed calves on automatic feeders. Once weaned, the calves belong in another barn - not mucking up the air for the younger ones. 

The authors also found that frequently cleaning of the feeder and pen helped reduce both scours and BRD.

Reference: Medrano-Galarza, C. and Others, "Association of Management practices and calf health on dairy farms using automatic milk feeders in southern Ontario." Journal of Dairy Science 100:340 July 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Long Does it Take for Antibodies from Colostrum to Reach their Maximum Concentration in Calf Blood?

Using blood drawn from 20 calves received one feeding of 3 liters of colostrum at or less than 2 hours after birth they found this: (this delivered at least 200g of antibodies)

Average time to maxiumum concentration:

Colostrum fed with nursing bottle = 786 minutes (13.1 hours)
Colostrum fed with tube feeder     = 966 minutes (16.1 hours)

The variation was from an estimated low of 625 and estimated high of 1127 (18.8 hours).

Given the small number of calves in the study the difference in these times was not statistically reliable and could have been due to chance variation among calves.

Practical conclusion if we want to estimate maximum antibody blood level?

Wait to draw blood to assess effectiveness of passive transfer of antibodies until at least 18 hours after the last feeding of colostrum.

Reference: Desjardins-Morrissette, M. and Others, "The effect of nipple bottle vs. esophageal tube feeding of colostrum on absorption of IgG and plasma glucagon-like peptide-2 concentrations." Journal of Dairy Science 100:215 July 2017


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Timing of Colostrum Feeding Makes a Difference

A study reported efficiency of absorption of colostral antibodies. The research team claimed that all 20 calves were fed colostrum at 2 hours after birth.

They reported efficiency of absorption of 54%. Most of the literature reports values around 30 to 35%.

Why so high in this study compared to the other reported data? In my opinion it was due to the timing of feeding. None of the calves went more than 2 hours before the first feeding of colostrum of 200 grams of antibodies (IgG). 

The much lower efficiency of absorption values reported in the literature includes data from calves receiving their first feeding of colostrum anytime before 24 hours.

I really like the protocol followed at the Cornell University Ruminant Research Center in Dryden, NY. They have a collect and feed protocol. The cow is milked as soon as practical right in the calving pen. After the colostrum is tested to be sure it meets the minimum antibody concentration the calf care person feeds the calf. Collect and Feed. No delay.

Timing of colostrum feeding makes a difference. Sooner is better.

As a side note, the research objective was to compare bottle and tube feeding of colostrum. They fed 3 L of adequate quality to provide at least 200g of antibodies. No differences were found in blood serum total protein, time to maximum concentration of BSTP, and efficiency of absorption.

Reference:
Desjardins-Morrisssette, M. and Others, "The effect of nipple bottle vs. esophageal tube feeding of colostrum on absorption of IgG and plasma glucagon-like peptide-2 concentrations." Journal of Dairy Science 100:215 July 2017.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pelleted compared to Textured
Calf Starter Grain
[Yet, another chapter]

A research project run between August and October 2016 in Minnesota had the objective of comparing starch levels in calf grains to see if there would be differences in rates of gain and feed conversion efficiency. Calves were fed 20-20 milk replacer at the rate of 1.25# of powder daily.

The comparison grain was a textured calf grain with 30 percent starch. The pelleted grains had starch levels of 18, 24 and 30 percent.

Gain findings
1. There were no significant differences in gains among calves fed the three pelleted feeds that contained different levels of starch.

2. The textured starter gains among calves were 1.5 #/day compared to 1.3 #/day for the pelleted feeds. That is a 17.5% difference when comparing textured to pelleted feeds.

Feed conversion findings
1. There were no significant differences in feed efficiency among calves fed the three pelleted feeds that contained different levels of starch. 

2. The gain-to-feed ratio (measure of feed conversion efficiency) was 0.57 for textured-starter fed calves compared to 0.52 for calves receiving the pelleted feed. That is a 9% reduction in feed efficiency when pelleted is compared to textured feed.

Other observations: No differences in health costs and daily fecal scores among the four feeds.

Conclusion by authors:

"Under the conditions of this study, calf performance was reduced with a complete pelleted starter regardless of starch level compared with the textured starter with 30 percent starch." (p116)

They continued, "Cost savings with a complete pelleted starter may still provide economical gains over a textured starter with 30 percent starch." (p116)

Sam's observations:

I checked our local mill (in July 2017) for prices. For a 20% protein product, the textured feed delivered to our vet clinic cost was $351 per ton bulk [minimum 3 T) compared to $327 for the pelleted product. 

The choice of product may have more to do with the on-farm facilities for storage and feeding rather than either the rate of gain and/or price of feed. 

When caring for my own calves I chose to feed the textured product until calves were about seven weeks old, fed a 50:50 blend of textured:pelleted for a week, then grower pelleted feed from then on. Recall that I was feeding milk replacer at a maximum of 2.2#/day from weeks 2-5 so getting calves to eat starter before 5 weeks was challenging.

Reference: Zeigler, D. and Others, "Pre- and post-weaning performance and health of dairy calves fed complete pelleted calf starters formulated for three different starch levels." Journal of Dairy Science 100:116 July 2017.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Greater Feed Conversion Efficiency with More Gradual Weaning of Intensively-Fed Calves

More evidence that gradual weaning is preferred for calves on an intensive-feeding program is reported by the Nurture Research Center run by Provimi North America. 

Calves in the study were fed selected levels of milk replacer varying from a low of 1.4 lbs/day to a high of 2.2 lbs/day. They had weaning programs as short as 7 days and as long as 18 days. 

Feed efficiency (gain per pound of dry matter intake) was highest for the high feeding rate calves weaned over the longest (18 days) period of time.

As I look back at my own weaning practices for intensively-fed calves there were two trends that were significant for me:

1. Although my goal was to complete my step-down weaning in one week nearly all my calves took two weeks to arrive at my goal of calf starter grain intake. Thus, rather than calves completing weaning between 42 and 49 days, most of them were completely weaned between 42 and 56 days - thus the weaning took two weeks. 

2. I participated in a feeding trial involving these intensively-fed calves. We had rates of gain for each week up to when they were completely weaned. The majority of these calves taking two weeks to wean gained over two pounds a day between 42 and 56 days. It seems to me that we were getting very acceptable rates of feed conversion among these calves even though I admit I did not have dry matter intakes for them.

Reference:
Dennis, T.S. and Others, "Effects of milk replacer feeding rate and age at weaning on calf performance and digestion through 8 weeks of age." Journal of Dairy Science, Supplement 2, 100:301 July 2017.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What to do When the Train Falls off the Rails?

We did a routine check on effectiveness of cleaning procedures on colostrum handling equipment. The previous check results were really good.

Oops! The train fell off the rails.

I use the Hygiena SystemSure Plus unit (luminometer) to do adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring. The ATP test is a process of rapidly measuring actively growing microorganisms through the detection of adenosine triphosphate. An ATP monitoring system can detect the amount of microbial contamination that remains after cleaning a surface (for example, calf feeding equipment). 

Here is where the train fell off the rails: (this farm set their standard for an acceptable clean surface is 100rlu)

Sample site                                                                    Previous          Current
                                                                                       Reading          Reading
Milker bucket used to collect colostrum                             5                    46
Plastic lid for milker bucket                                                0                5298

Tube feeder inside the bottle                                               0                    10
Tube feeder inside tube at top where screws on bottle       0                 1404
Tube feeder inside tube at ball end                                    12                3458

These tests were run on-farm with the maternity pen supervisor at my elbow. He was not a happy camper. 

We checked out the sink where the milker bucket and lid were washed. Chlorinated detergent supply was okay, brushes were there. The plastic lid reading appeared to be a breakdown in protocol compliance. He was going to review cleaning procedures with the two employees that had responsibility for that cleaning job. 

We checked out the sink where the tube feeder was washed. Supply of hot water was okay, chlorinated detergent supply was okay, brush for tube feeder bottle was there but the one for cleaning the inside of the tube itself was missing - just gone. A phone conversation with the guy that feeds and cleans this equipment turned up the fact that the brush had been missing for a week. [Note that the employee did not tell the maternity pen supervisor about the brush for a whole week!] I supplied a new brush from my truck.

Now we had a better idea why the calf care person had been using so much electrolyte solution for scouring calves the past couple of weeks.

Friday, July 28, 2017

How Long are Calves Left with Dams after Birth?


How about leaving the calf with the dam for 2 hours? Six hours? Twelve hours or more?

A study of dairy farms in Ohio and Michigan included both conventional and organic producers. They reported their practice of separating calves from dams.

"The majority of conventional (64%, 279/439) producers reported separating the calf from the dam 30 minutes to 6 hours after birth. 

More organic (34%, 56/166) than conventional (18%, 80/439) producers reported separation 6 to 12 hours after birth, and organic producers were more likely to agree that time before separation is beneficial." (p292)

If we do a little adding we conclude that among conventional dairies with 279 separating less than 6 hours and another 80 separation between 6 and 12 hours we have a total of 359 separating at 12 hours or less. 

That means among the 439 conventional dairies there 80 farms (18%) remaining that routinely left calves with the dam for more than 12 hours.

On one hand, the advantage of early separation is reduced exposure to pathogens (for example, coliform bacteria, cryptosporidia parasites) being shed in high numbers by the dam. 

On the other hand, folk knowledge suggests that the presence of the calf during the first 24 hours promotes lower rates of retained placenta and metritis.

In a review of scientific literature Dr. Leslie (University of Guelph) pointed out that the process of uterine recovery from birth is closely related to frequency of udder stimulation (either nursing or being milked). 

Beef cows being suckled by their calves or dairy cows being milked 4 times daily have more rapid uterine recovery than dairy cows milked twice daily. Thus, the biological evidence shows that frequent oxytocin release in the days after calving is key to the processes of uterine health. Unless leaving the calf with the dam is connected to frequent suckling there appears to be no advantage to leaving the calf for an extended time with the dam (and maybe other adult animals).

What do I recommend to my clients? Do whatever you can to reduce pathogen exposure for newborn calves. On some dairies this means physically removing the calf from the dam's environment as soon as the calf is able to stand.

On other dairies dam access to the calf is given priority. Good calf health can still be accomplished without high pathogen exposure. 

This means placing the calf in an environment where she cannot fall face-first into dirty bedding or lick the dam's dirty hair coat BUT the dam can still reach her to continue licking and stimulating respiration and healthful behaviors. Some farms put the calves a water tub in the calving pen while others use some kind of low gating to confine the calf while allowing access by the dam.

In my consulting practice, especially in Australia and Europe where it is a common practice to leave calve with dams for 24 hours or more, I have seen significant improvements in calf health associated with reducing cow:calf contact hours.

References:
Pempek, J. and Others, "Dairy calf management - A Comparison of practices and producer attitudes among conventional and organic herds." Journal of Dairy Science, Supplement 2, 100:292. July 2017

Leslie, K., "The Events of Normal and Abnormal Postpartum Reproductive Endocrinology and Uterine Involution in Dairy Cows: A Review." Canadian Veterinary Journal 24:67-71


Monday, July 24, 2017

Pain Relief Among Calves Dehorned with Chemical Paste

In a report published in the American Journal of Dairy Science (August, 2017) the authors assessed pain response to dehorning with chemical paste. They also evaluate methods of pain relief.

In summary, they reported

1. Calves dehorned with chemical paste with no pain relief showed symptoms of strong pain at 60 minutes that continued somewhat diminished out to three hours. 

2. Calves dehorned with chemical paste with a cornual nerve block (similar to that used for thermal dehorning) showed much, much lower symptoms of pain over the 3-hour observation period post treatment.

3. The authors recommended using the same pain relief procedures for caustic paste dehorning as for thermal burning.

As always consult your dairy veterinarian for the procedures best for your farm. 

Reference:
Winder, C.B. and Others, "Clinical trial of local anesthetic protocols for acute pain associated with caustic paste disbudding in dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 100:6429-6441 #8 August 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Vaccinating Calves 
Thoughts from Dr. Woolums

I was reviewing a file in vaccinating calves. I found Dr. Woolums' talk at the 2013 NY Calf Congress, "Calf Immunity: Expectations and Reality."

Dr. Woolums is an internationally recognized authority on bovine immunity. She had these thoughts:

1. When vaccinating calves, plan to boost once or twice before disease is expected to occur. 

2, When vaccinating calves under 6 months of age, try to give a least 2 doses one month apart.

3. Try to administer vaccines so that the final boost is given one month before expected disease. 

4. Reliability of response [to vaccines] is inversely correlated with age. 

5. Consult with your veterinarian regarding vaccine choice and timing. 

All good ideas. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Protecting Calves from Stress

Some stresses seem to be unavoidable. We have to wean all of the calves eventually. Their ration will change. Their housing will change.

We know that the changes in the calf's body caused by stress can have negative consequences. What, then, can we do to reduce these "bad" effects?

In a recent consultation we (owner, me) talked about improving the overall well-being of the calves as a means of compensating for these stresses. Calves were "flat-lining" (no growth) for a month after weaning, many requiring treatment for  pneumonia.

Changes that were considered to improve the overall well being of the  included these:

1. Strengthen the colostrum management program - increase the volume fed from the current one 2-quart feeding; try to get more calves fed sooner after being born, start checking colostrum quality so the best quality can be fed for first feedings. The vet will take blood samples to check on passive transfer effectiveness. Try to get readings for 10 to 12 calves total. 

2. Feed more milk to preweaned calves - feed more than the current 2 quarts twice a day of 20-20 milk replacer (currently mixed 8oz. makes two quarts).

3. Change calf starter grain feeding program - currently fills bucket when calf is a week old and leaves it until it gets empty - talked about keeping only enough starter grain in buckets close to consumption rate and dumping them at least once a week.

4. Check on how well these efforts to improve overall well-being are working. Using a heart girth weight tape get some birth:weaning weights to get actual growth rates [industry standard is now to double weight in 56 days]. As they are weaned, try to get 10 calves.

We also talked about the weaning procedures and weaning pen management but that is a discussion for another day. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

We Quit Testing Our Colostrum!

This is the conversation last week on a dairy.

Me: How is your colostrum quality this past month?
Dairy: Oh, we don't have enough colostrum. We have to feed all of it. So, we quit testing our colostrum.

Me: Well, if you don't have any good quality colostrum for first feeding, can't you feed a colostrum replacer?
Dairy: No, we don't have replacer. It costs too much. We just feed whatever we have.

End of conversation.

They have a written colostrum-feeding protocol that is followed very well. They collect blood from all the two - three day-old calves. Their average blood serum total protein level for the past six months has been around 6.2mg/dl. (Industry standards are 90% at 5.2 or above, 80 % at 5.5 and above.)

But, when I scan the list of blood serum total protein values really low values keep popping up. Most often there are two or three together. This in contrast of isolated low values. 

What do I conclude? Batches of really low quality colostrum are being fed to two or more calves in a row.

Here is the critical question.

Are the health and growth disadvantages associated with feeding this poor quality colostrum worth more than feeding a good quality colostrum replacer? My answer is "YES."

My recommendations:

1. Start testing colostrum again. Use the Brix refractometer to identify the low IgG stuff. 

2. For first feeding, if no good quality (Brix >22 solids) colostrum is available. use a good quality colostrum replacer that will provide 200 g of IgG (we have to be careful here because there are many products on the market that are packaged to provide only 150 g IgG). 

3. For the second feeding, use whatever quality colostrum that is available. Fresh maternal colostrum has a lot of other stuff in addition to antibodies that will benefit the calves. (All the calves receive 6 quarts of colostrum during the first 24 hours.) When practical use the lower quality colostrum for feeding calves on the second day, too. It is a great energy source especially during cold weather months. 

Bottom line: Continue to test colostrum quality. We can make better management decisions knowing quality than just blindly feeding "whatever we have."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Test, Don't Guess: Monitoring Bacteria Counts in "as-fed" Milk

The July, 2017, issue of the calf management newsletter focuses on a quality-control issue important for reducing the rate of scours treatments among preweaned calves. Click HERE for this issue. If the link does not work on your computer, then enter this in your browser window:
http://www.atticacows.com/library/newsletters/CEJuly2017.pdf 

The key points:
  • Milk residues provide an excellent place for bacteria to grow and form biofilms.
  • Biofilms on equipment are a common source of bacteria in the milk/milk replacer we feed to our calves.
  • Contaminated milk (bacteria) can pose a significant health challenge for young dairy calves resulting in diarrhea and secondary respiratory infections.
  • It is cost effective to regularly sample and culture “as-fed” milk in order to monitor the effectiveness of our sanitation practices.
  • Practical sampling procedures for group and individually-housed calves.
Enjoy.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Revised 7/3/2017
Colostrum Bacteria Control: 8 Practical Steps to Reduce  Bacteria Counts

This resource is in the Metric version of the Calf Facts Resource Library at www.atticacows.com.

The eight steps that are detailed in this resource are: 
·         Step 1. Clean teats in the parlor.
·         Step 2. Clean dump buckets including lids, valves and gaskets.
·         Step 3. Clean buckets to collect colostrum as it is harvested.
·         Step 4. If 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
·         Step 7. Clean containers for feeding and storing colostrum.
·         Step 8. Prompt feeding of warmed up colostrum

    The resource is HERE or type this into your browser
     http://www.atticacows.com/library/newsletters/ColostrumBacteriaControlUK162R17.pdf




     Enjoy.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gradual compared to Abrupt Weaning

I was reading a report involving 18 dairy farms in western Canada. Among the data were facts about weaning practices followed by these farms. Thirty-nine percent of them abruptly weaned calves with the remaining 61 percent following "gradual" weaning procedures. Why do so many farms continue to abruptly wean dairy calves?

Then I recalled work done in 2010 that compared different weaning strategies (abrupt, 4 days, 10 days and 22 days). They found that the 10-day weaning period resulted in the minimum growth check post-weaning. That is, the calves weaned this way had the lowest decrease in their rate of gain. In sharp contrast, abruptly weaned calves lost weight initially post-weaning.

My consulting experience with health problems among "just-weaned" calves include many farms experiencing high respiratory treatment rates among these abruptly weaned calves. What else would we expect among calves that are experiencing high levels of stress?

That transferred my attention to a June 2017 Journal of Dairy Science article, "Abrupt weaning reduces postweaning growth and is associated with alterations in gastrointestinal markers of development in dairy calve fed an elevated plane of nutrition during the preweaning period." [underline added by me]. They compared 0 step-down with a 12 day gradual weaning protocol.

If one uses only average daily gain as measure of successful weaning their data show that both groups of calves had about the same rate of gain at the end of the full 54 days of the study.

BUT, during the post-weaning period (days 49 - 54) the gradually-weaned calves consumed 2.9 pounds (1.32kg) of starter grain daily compared to the abruptly-weaned calves considerably lower consumption rate of 2.2 lbs. (0.991kg).

Further, the average daily gain among the abruptly-weaned calves dropped from 2.2 pounds daily pre-weaning to 0.5 during the week post-weaning - a huge growth check. These are the high-risk calves for respiratory illness.

As an aside, I recommend that farms feeding milk/milk replacer at an intensive level (that is, 8 or more quarts per day) not depend on calf starter grain intake for coccidiosis control. In my experience calves that I started to wean around 35 days (5 weeks) were eating far to little starter to provide coccidosis control. With my step-down program (eliminate one full feeding a day when the calf is regularly eating one full pound of starter daily for three days in a row) I depended on amprolium in the milk for coccidiosis control. Most of my calves increased their daily starter intake by 56 days to roughly 4.5-5.0 pounds (about 2kg). At that age they were moved into small group pens (N=5) and continued to be offered ad lib a 16%cp heifer pellet. Coccidiosis breaks were few and far between.

References: Sweeney, B. C. "Duration of weaning, starter intake, and weight gain of dairy calves fed large amounts of milk." Journal of Dairy Science 93:148-1525 2010. Atkinson, D. J., and Others, "Benchmarking passive transfer of immunity and growth in dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 100:3773-3782 April 2017. Steele, M.A. and Others, as above Journal of Dairy Science 100:5390-5399 June 2017. 


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Automatic Calf Feeders - Bacteria Control Challenges

During a study including 38 farms over 18 months the research team assessed the bacteria contamination levels of milk consumed from automatic calf feeders. Each farm was sampled from both the automated feeder mixing tank (mixing tank) and the point of connection between the flexible dispensing tube and the nipple (tube end). 

Bacteria counts reported:


Source of Sample           Value                         Standard Plate Count      Coliform Count
                                                                                   (cfu/ml)                         (cfu/ml)
1. Mixer tank                  Median                              166,916                             336
                                        Range - lowest                         125                                 0
                                                   - highest              59,396,100               25,621,330

2. Tube end                     Median                            2,566,867                       10,430 
                                        Range - lowest                       6,668                              45
                                                   - highest              82,825,000               28,517,000

Using the thresholds of 10,000 cfu/ml coliforms and 100,000cfu/ml standard plate count (SPC) they reported:

Source of Sample                 SPC>100,000            Coliform Count >10,000
                                         (% farms above)            (% farms above)
1. Mixer tank                          32                                   15
2. Tube end                             68                                   28

What are the messages for me?

First, RANGE values for both SPC and coliforms demonstrate that while it is possible to deliver clean food to autofeeder calves it clearly is possible to screw up badly - very, very badly - 82,000,000 plus cfu/ml!

Second, when I culture "as-fed" milk samples for my clients we use these upper thresholds to determine if on-farm cleaning and handling procedures are being met (usually fed in bottles or buckets manually):
                              SPC     <10,000cfu/ml
                       Coliforms   <1,000cfu/ml

If my clients' samples came back looking like those from theses 38 farms I would be all over their cases - all cleaning procedures would be examined closely for protocol compliance slip-ups. Weekly samples would be taken all along the handling stream to isolate possible points of inoculation and growth.

Third, in terms of calf care and calf health, I consider feeding milk with these levels of bacteria contamination irresponsible and perhaps bordering on animal abuse.

As an aside, one time when we were monitoring bacteria levels with automatic feeders for a client we discovered that the warm-water holding reservoir was serving as a bacterial incubator because the feeders were being used most of the time for whole milk. Contaminated water was leaking into each batch of milk as it was heated. By changing the settings to use 10g of powder in every mixer bowl the reservoir problem was eliminated. So, I have to admit that issues beyond cleaning can sometimes contribute to high bacteria counts. 

References:
Jorgensen, M.W. and Others, "Factors associated with dairy calf health in automated feeding systems in the Upper Midwest United States." Journal of Dairy Science 100:5675-5686 June 2017. Dietrich, M. and Others, " Factors associated with aerobic plate count, coliform count, and log reduction of bacteria in automated calf feeders." Journal of Dairy Science, 93, Suppl. 2, p214 #86.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Variation in Colostrum Yields

In response to a recent question about variations in colostrum yields I pulled together data from two studies published in the Journal of Dairy Science in 2016 and 2017. All cows were second lactation and greater.

The first study was with Holstein breed cows from 9 farms with a total of 111 first milkings. They averaged 17 pounds of colostrum at first milking. However, the overall variation was from 1 pound to 87 pounds! Two-thirds of the samples (N=74) fell between 2 and 33 pounds.

The second study was with Jersey breed cows from one 3,500 cow dairy in California. They collected data on 134 first milkings. The average yield was 9 pounds. The overall variation was from less than 1 pound to 30 pounds. Two-thirds of the samples (N=90) fell between 3 and 15 pounds.

The answer to the question "How much variation in volume of colostrum production is 'normal'?" is:

1. Widely varying amounts among cows for any given lactation, length of dry period, dry-cow ration and season of the year are "normal." Further, predicting this variation based on production in previous lactation is not very reliable.

2. If we plan on feeding about 17 pounds (4 quarts) of colostrum for newborn calves during the first 4 hours of life (Jersey calves = 13 pounds or 3 quarts) then we need to be prepared to supplement the dam's yield for many of our calves.

3. Having a provision to store excess colostrum while minimizing bacteria contamination is a best management practice. Remember rapid chilling to 60F (16C) after collection is a cost effective way to maintain high colostrum cleanliness.




References: Cabral, R. G. and Others, " Predicting colostrum quality from performance in the previous lactation and environmental changes." Journal of Dairy Science 99:4048-4055 2016 Silva-del-Rio, N. and Others, "Colostrum immunoglobulin G concentration of multiparous Jersey cows at first and second milking is associated with parity, colostrum yield, and time of first milking, and can be estimated with Brix refractometry." Journal of Dairy Science 100:5774-5781.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Second Milking - A Colostrum Resource?

Colostrum in short supply? Try collecting and testing second milking from fresh cows.

In a study involving second lactation and greater Jersey cows the investigators collected both first and second milking (N=68 cows).

This is what they found from the second milkings:

                                                                  Average(Mean)   Minimum    Maximum
Amount of colostrum collected (lbs.)            9.5                       0.9               25.3
Brix value (percent)                                     18.7                     13.4               29.3
Antibodies (IgG) in lab test                         46.9                       6.2              100

Nearly one-half of the second milkings (43 percent) had the industry standard of 50g/l minimum for colostrum acceptable for first-feeding newborn calves. 

TEST, DON'T GUESS.  That's the message - your second milking from cows may be a "hidden" colostrum resource on the dairy. 

Reference: Silva-del-Rio, N. and Others, " Colostrum immunglobulin G concentration of multiparous Jersey cows at first and second milking is associated with parity, colostrum yield and time of first milking, and be estimated with Brix refractometery." Journal of Dairy Science 100:5774-5781. July 2017.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Value of Being Raised on a Farm

Right away you need to know that this post has nothing to do directly with animal science for managing calves.

A mom wrote this about her son, a recent college graduate, and his experiences on his first job. Click HERE to access or paste in your browser this URL
http://whminer.org/pdfs/06-17.pdf   Scroll down to the article on page 9.

For those of us who grew up working on farms it will resonate soundly with our life experiences.

By the way, it is in a really interesting  monthly report from the Miner Institute, a research and educational institution in northern New York State. It's easy to subscribe and receive it monthly. Just send an e-mail to dutil@whminer.com and tell her to sign you up for their monthly publication notice.

Enjoy. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

More on Group-Housed Calves
on Automatic Feeders

"A study of farms using automatic feeders and group housing revealed some practices that point to success in these calf rearing systems." This is the lead for an article by Dr. Marcia Endres (University of Minnesota, St. Paul) that summarized factors that can be important for the successful use of automated calf feeder systems.

She listed these nine factors:

"1. Reduced time to reach peak milk allowance.
2. Milk or milk replacer with low bacteria counts (cleanliness of equipment is key).
3. Positive pressure ventilation tubes.
4. Sufficient amount of space per calf in the resting area.
5. Small number of calves per group.
6. Adequate farm serum total  protein concentration averages (an indicator of passive immune transfer.
7. Drinking speed used as a warning signal to identify sick calves.
8. Consistent navel dipping and disinfecting.
9. Narrow age range within calf groups." (p349)

You may want to read the entire article including her nine "Rules of Thumb" or specific recommendations for automated calf feeder systems.

Reference: Endres, Marcia "Lessons learned from group-housed calves." Hoard's Dairyman May 25, 2017, page 349.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Hay for Preweaned Calves

"Hay for Preweaned Calves" is the subject for the June, 2017 issue of the calf management newsletter. In summary you will find:

  • Calf-care persons have widely different opinions about feeding hay to preweaned calves.
  • Discussions about feeding hay to preweaned calves need to to specify (1) the physical form of hay, (2) volume hay fed, (3) nutrient profile, (4) species present, and (5) calf age at which hay is introduced to the ration.
  • Discussions about feeding hay to preweaned calves may focus on papillae development and health and lack emphasis on the microbial population essential for forage digestion.
  • Recent research is leading me to conclude that limited hay intake has a variety of positive outcomes for preweaned calves.
  •  Practical aspects of feeding hay to preweaned calves.
If you have any stories to share dealing with feeding hay to calves please feel free to forward them to me at smleadley@yahoo.com. I would enjoy hearing from you. 

Sam

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Calf Articles All in One Issue

When I checked my mailbox this morning I found the May 25th issue of Progressive Dairyman. I was pleased to find articles on calves and heifers - can you believe 13 articles in one issue!

If you do not have access to the hard copy you can go to www.progressivedairy.com, click on the image "Current Issue."

1. Dairy Dialogue with PDmag - Just a teaser in print but a neat interview-style article on calf rearing from two Indiana calf operations - found at www.progressivedairy.com/6-calf-health-areas . The two big questions were on colostrum management and preweaned calf nutrition.

2. "Optimize starter ration management for a more successful calf program" - p62 - discusses weaning programs related to concentrate intake. Has a nice summary of data to collect to evaluate a calf management program. 

3. "Endres Jazzy Jerseys: All-in, all-out calf barn minimizes death loss" p64 - good details on all-in, all-out management.

4. "Fatty acids cushion calves from heat stress" p65-67 - great graph showing changes in calf body temperature over 24 hrs under cool, moderate and hot ambient conditions - did you know that under hot conditions calf temps peak around 10 PM? Nice sidebar "5 suggestions for improving heat stress in calves."

5. "Jersey nutrition: Small size doesn't mean small appetite" - 68 - good section on "Misconceptions"

6. "What additive are available in milk replacers and what should they do?" pp69-70 - Noah Litherland has a good summary table showing additive, mode of action and examples.

7. "Dairy replacement heifers - weaning to freshening" pp71-72

8. "Crank up your fans to improve summer calf performance" - pp 73-74 - two good practical ideas for evaluating your ventilation system. 

9. "Improve your calf health: Focus on 4 key areas" pp76-77

10. "When milk is not enough ... and it isn't for some vitamins" pp78-79 the author makes the case for supplementing whole milk with additives that boost intakes of selected vitamins (esp. D and E).

11. "Protein and bypass protein for calves and heifers" pp80-81

12. "Injectable trace minerals: Enhancing immune system response" p82 - a summary based on a presentation at the Cornell Calf & Heifer Congress 2016 "Role of Trace Minerals in Active Immunity and Respiratory Vaccine Effectives" Roberto Palomares.

13. "Are you asking the right questions regarding heifer raising?" pp85, 105 - good examples of how to do a cost analyses for both home-raised and outsourced heifers.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hazards of Bacterial Contamination of Colostrum
Dr. Sandra Godden, Univ. MN

I was working on a post to our clinic website in the Metric Calf Resources section when I found this link to this resource by Dr. Godden. She gave this talk at a dairy meeting in Arizona in 2009. But, it does a great job on this topic. Why should we avoid feeding contaminated colostrum.

And, it summarizes the research work done on using potassium sorbate to slow down bacteria growth in colostrum.

So, click HERE for her paper. Or, paste this URL in your Internet browser: http://www.dairyweb.ca/Resources/SWNMC2009/Godden.pdf .

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Feeding Enough Colostrum to Meet
Energy Needs for First 24 Hours

Mike VanAmburg (Cornell) gave a nice summary of energy needs of dairy calves during their first 24 hours of life. in his presentation at the national Dairy Calf and Heifer Association meetings at Madison WI in April, 2017.

This is his statement:
"Also, colostrum is the first meal and accordingly it very important in establishing the nutrient supply needed to maintain the calf over the first day of life. ... We tend to underestimate the nutrient requirements of the calf, especially for maintenance."

"For example, a newborn Holstein calf at 85 lbs. birth weight has a maintenance requirement of approximately 1.55 Mcal ME (megacalories metabolizable energy) at 72 degrees F. "

He continues, "For comparison, if the ambient temperature  is 32 degrees F the ME requirements for maintenance is 2.4 Mcal."

By my calculations if a calf is only fed 2 quarts of colostrum her first feeding (2.6 Mcal) she will not have much energy left for growth even in summer. Winter weather challenges her to just stay alive on the energy in two quarts of colostrum.

The message to me is to plan in getting at least 4 quarts colostrum into our newborn calves in the first 12 hours with the first feeding preferred in the first 4 hours.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Poop Patrol:
Making Sense From Loose Poop

When preweaned dairy calves are housed individually the calf care person has an opportunity to look at poop (aka feces) from each calf.

One of my biggest training challenges while managing a calf enterprise was teaching new workers what to look for in poop and how to assign the correct meaning to various qualities. 

 When I made a major change in my milk feeding program I had to re-learn this business of making sense from loose poop. The new milk feeding rate was increased gradually during the first two weeks with the goal of feeding four quarts twice daily to deliver approximately two pounds of milk replacer powder a day. This was an increase from 1.25 pounds per day.

In my note on Milk Feeding in An Intensive Feeding Program I have a section, "Manure Patrol." [Click HERE for this resource] I had a lot to learn about manure from intensively-fed calves. When you put a lot in the front a lot comes out the back!

A recent presentation at the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association annual conference highlighted this challenge of interpreting the fecal output from intensively-fed preweaned dairy calves.

The author commented,
"A couple of recent studies from my lab are confirming that calves fed greater quantities of milk solids early in life have greater fecal scores [vet-speak for looser poop]; however, when the dry matter percentage of the calves feces were determined there were no differences between calves fed differing quantities of milk solids." (p37).

Bottom Line? Loose poop is normal and okay among these intensively-fed calves.

So, what was my training challenge?

Well, there is loose poop and there is loose poop. I had to show my new helpers the difference between "normal" colored poop (yellowish, straw colored) and white and/or containing blood. They needed to be able to judge consistency differences between "watery" (sick calf) and "loose" (runny, seeps into bedding). 

Just a reminder if you move from limit-fed calves to either free-choice acidified milk or to an automatic feeder, as you increase liquid intake plan on lots more urine. An lots more bedding is always needed to maintain reasonably dry resting space compared to limit-fed calves.

Reference: Ballou, Michael A., "Nutritional strategies to improve the health of pre-weaned calves and growing heifers." Proceedings of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, April 11-13, 2017, Madison, WI pp33-40.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More on Using Automatic Feeder Data

More data from the joint Minnesota and Virginia researcher team.

Among other findings they found that calves that were diagnosed with treatable diarrhea had significantly slower eating rates up to 3 days before they showed visible signs of scours.

For me the implication is that when we scan the feeding rate screen and spot a calf that has a significant decrease in eating rate she should go on my "watch" list - especially for scours. 

At this point in our understanding of the eating-rate data I don't feel comfortable starting any kind of intervention to prevent scours based on a decrease in eating rate. The difference in rate (healthy calves ate 88ml/minute faster than calves that later had scours) might not be great enough to justify anything more than closer observation.

However, if we diagnose a case of scours right away rather than missing it for a day or two we are more likely to have a positive treatment outcome. 

Reference: Knauer, W.A.,and Others, "The use of day level feeding behaviors to detect illness in group housed automatically fed pre-weaned dairy calves." Proceedings of American Association of Bovine Practitioners, September 15-17, 2016 p.150.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Improving Weaning Results: Keeping
Weaned Calves Growing and Healthy

May 2017 calf management newsletter is now posted on vet clinic website. Click HERE to go to the newsletter. Or, paste to browser http://www.atticacows.com/library/newsletters/CEMay2017.pdf 

Summary:
  • Rate of rumen development is determined by how we care for our calves.
  • Our level of milk feeding is going to influence the consumption of calf starter grain. 
  • What to do with calves that are not ready to wean?
Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We Still Need to Keep our Colostrum Clean

A study including 18 dairy herds in Quebec Province, Canada, measured bacteria in  "as-fed" colostrum as well as assessing adequate passive transfer of immunity. There were 333 samples.

A total of 219 calves were bled to estimate the level of passive transfer of immunity. The median herd level of successful transfer of immunity was 70 percent (range of herds was from 41% to 1005).

Of the 333 colostrum samples that had standard plate counts completed (total bacteria, aerobic culture). The standard used was 100,000cfu/ml. Above this was considered failure. 

The herd-level success (sample below 100,000cfu/ml) ranged from a low of 3 percent to a high of 75 percent. The median value was 38 percent. This tells us that a lot of highly contaminated colostrum was fed on these 18 farms. 

These data reinforce the facts from a study in Quebec Province nearly ten years ago that had roughly the same results. Colostrum has not gotten cleaner in the past decade.

What can we do to be sure our colostrum meets at least this standard of cleanliness?

1. Sample and culture. We cannot manage what we do not measure. 

2. If bacteria counts are above this threshold (100,000cfu/ml) there are specific steps we should consider to reduce both inoculation and growth. Click HERE to access this 8-point list). 

3. Sample and culture some more. 

Reference: Freycon, P. and Others, "A herd-level study of colostrum management and its association with success of passive transfer in newborn dairy calves." Proceedings of American Association of Bovine Practitioners, September, 15-17, 2016, Volume 49 , p147.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Variation in Growth Rates, Preweaned Calves

The University of Minnesota included 102 heifer calves in a feeding trial. They compared growth and behavior among group-fed calves on an organic dairy. The calves were fed whole milk with Skellerup peach teat feeders either once a day or twice a day for a total of 6 L (6.3 quarts) daily. (13% solids, 4.2% fat, 3.3% protein).

The NRC calf model projects the estimated gain for calves about 81 pounds in a 60F environment with this ration (6.3 quarts daily) at 1.4 pounds per day (protein limited ration, lots of leftover energy with this high fat milk). Calves had a 19% protein calf starter available free-choice.

The variation among calves was evident at 60 days of age:

Holstein calves -                                             low = 0.55kg/day, high = 0.97kg/day [1.2 - 2.1 lbs/day]
HolsteinXMontbeliardeXViking Red -          low = 0.4 kg/day, high = 1.07kg/day [0.9 - 2.4 lbs/day]
HolsteinXJerseyXNormandeXViking Red - low = 0.5kg/day, high = 0.98kg/day [1.1 - 2.2 lbs/day]

The once-a-day calves achieved 85 percent doubling their weight by 60 days. The twice-a-day fed calves achieve 96 percent doubling their weight by 60 days.

When I used a sample of Holstein calves for which I had individual growth rates to compare rate of gain by sire I found that about one-third of the variation could be tied to the sire.

The messages for me are:

1. Expect lots of variation in gain among calves that receive the same care under the same farm conditions. There will be "laggards" (low growth rate) among every group of calves.

2. Given variation the most effective way to get better gains from the "laggards"is to raise the level of nutrition for the entire population.

Reference: Kienitz, M.J., and Others, "Growth, behavior, and economics of group-fed calves fed once or twice daily in an organic production system." Journal of Dairy Science 100:3318-3325. March 2017 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Urgent is "Sooner" for Colostrum Feeding?

Have you wondered about how soon is soon when you hear colostrum should be feed to newborn calves as soon as possible (ASAP) after birth?

A research group at North Carolina State University collected colostrum feeding data on 100 Holstein heifer calves with unassisted deliveries.  Time of first feeding was recorded - all calves received their first feeding of colostrum within the first 4 hours of life. At least four quarts was fed first feeding with some calves receiving a second smaller feeding in the next twelve hours. 

They measured apparent efficiency of absorption of antibodies. No difference in antibody absorption rates was observed as long as the first feeding was no later than 4 hours. 

Thus, although "sooner" may be better, as long as the first feeding came before four hours calves did a good job absorbing the antibodies in colostrum.

Worth noting was the wide variation among calves being fed colostrum with a common protocol. The lowest absorption rate was 7.7%. The highest rate was 59.9% - wow! The authors suggest a large genetic component in the variation from the average absorption rate of 28%.

Just in case you are not already monitoring the success of passive transfer among your calves a "How To" resource for monitoring can be found by clicking How to Test for Passive Transfer of Immunity"
in our Calf Resource library at www.atticacows.com website. 

Reference: Halleran, J., and Others, "Short Communication: Apparent efficiency of colostral immunoglobulin G absorption in Holstein heifers." Journal of Dairy Science 100:3282-3286. March 2017.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Hidden Cases of  Pneumonia

"On the average, for every calf with clinical pneumonia, we can expect almost two additional cases of subclinical pneumonia. In some situations, we have seen as many as six additional cases of subclinical pneumonia." page 68 "Why aren't my calves growing?" Dr. Theresa Olivett, School of Veterinary Medicine, Univ. Wisconsin writing in Progressive Dairyman, April 19, 2017.

What's the big deal about "subclinical" pneumonia - it's not bad enough to treat!

Dr. Olivett observes
"Sources of infection provides constant draw of metabolic energy by the immune system. ...Even calves with subclinical respiratory disease may suffer 0.1 pound a day decrease in average daily gain during the preweaning period." (p68)

Thus working with the herd veterinarian to describe disease patterns, protocols for early detection of pneumonia and effective treatment protocols is a cost effective approach to calf management.