Friday, December 29, 2017

January Calf Management Newsletter
"Feeding Space for Heifers"

Briefly the contents are: 
  • Why is the amount of feeder space an issue?
  • What about transition heifers coming out of hutches or individual pens?
  • Space issues for heifers between 4 and 8 months?
  • Space issues for breeding age and pregnant heifers?
To go to the issue click HERE.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Feeding Space for Heifers

On-farm visits recently have highlighted a continuing issue in heifer nutrition and management. 

No enough space at the feed bunk for the heifers in the pen!

Too little feeding space at certain ages may result in:
  • Slow growth rates
  • High sickness or morbidity rates
  • Large variation in growth rates among heifers resulting in significant size differences of heifers the same age
To read more on this for transition heifers, heifers between 4 and  8 months and breeding-age heifers click HERE.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why do we feed colostrum?

This short two-page review is in Question:Answer format (9 of them).
  • Why do we feed colostrum?
  • What is in colostrum to prevent disease in calves?
  • What are maternal immune cells?
  • How do maternal immune cells prevent disease?
  • What are antibodies (or, immunoglobulins)?
  • How do antibodies prevent disease?
  • What are "Other" elements in colostrum?
  • How do these "other" elements prevent disease?
  • What is in colostrum to provide nutrition for calves?
Access this review by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rumination and Activity in Dairy Calves up to 4 months of age

One of the research objectives in a study was to document rumination and activity among heifers that differed in milk replacer feeding rate, method of reducing milk replacer to weaning.

The groups were defined this way:

Group Name                     How much MR Fed       When and How Weaned                       TotalMRFe
Moderate - 6wk                   660g/day (1.5#)            1.5#/d 39 days, .75#/d 3 days                 60.8 #

High - 6 wk                      Up to 1.09kg/day             1.9# 4 days, 2.4# 31 days, 1.2# 7 days   94.1#

High - 8 wk                      Up to 1.09kg/day             1.9# 4 days, 2.4# 42 days, 1.2# 7 days    123.9#

Grad - 8 wk                      Up to 1.09kg/day              1.9# 4 days, 2.4# 35 days, 1.9# 4 days   116.2#
                                                                                   1.5# 4 days, 1# 4 days, 1/2# 4 days

Average time ruminating, eating and activity did not differ among treatments during days 38 to 56.

When I read this research report I expected to find higher rates of rumination among the "Moderate-6" group compared to the calves fed higher rates of milk replacer. Starter intake was measured. Rumination data were collected electronically from sensors on the calves. In general calves ruminated between 15 and 20 minutes per hour - the data show this behavior was spread out over nearly all 24 hours daily.

The calves fed the least amount of milk did start consuming starter grain about one week sooner than the other calves. However, these data seem to suggest that very little grain intake was required to stimulate rumination behavior. Note that the calves were bedded with long wheat straw.

When the milk feeding was reduced (High - 6 wk and High - 8 wk) - the calves were fed only in the morning during the weaning period - in the afternoon when these calves did not receive any milk feeding their activity level went up compared to the preweaning period.

Dennis, T.S. and Others, "Effect of milk replacer feeding rate, age at weaning, and method of reducing milk replacer to weaning on digestion, performance, rumination, and activity in dairy calves to 4 months of age." Journal of Dairy Science 101:268-278 January 2018

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pasteurized Milk for Calves and 
Murphy's Law
(If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong!)

"If anything go wrong, it will go wrong" That's the so-called Murphy's Law. Or, sometimes it comes out as "If anything can be done wrong, someone will find a way to do it wrong!"

In a recent study of pasteurizing milk for calves on 618 dairy farms in the US the results were not good for calves. 

Bacteria counts immediately post-pasteurization:

Really Bad (% greater than 100,000cfu/ml)        27%
Poor (% between 20,001-100,000cfu/ml)            14%
Good (% less than and equal to 20,000cfu/ml)    58%

To put these numbers in context, the threshold for adequate pasteurization of milk for feeding calves I use for my clients is 5,000cfu/ml total plate count, 1,000cfu/ml coliforms.

Unfortunately, this study did not report bacteria counts for the raw milk going into the pasteurizers. So we don't know for sure the problem was poor pasteurizer performance, poor pasteurizer cleaning or excessively contaminated raw milk. 

They did report percentage of contaminated milk samples by type of pasteurizer (contaminated defined as greater than 20,000cfu/ml).

Type of pasteurizer:                      Percent of Samples
                                                      Greater than 20,000cfu/ml
High Temperature/Short Time              38%
Batch pasteurizer                                  37%
UltraViolet treatment                            47%

Again, since the study did not report bacteria counts of raw milk going into the treatment units we cannot estimate accurately the efficacy of the units. 

Reference: Yoho, W.S.B, and Others, "Variation on nutrient content and bacteria count of pasteurized waste milk fed to dairy calves." American Journal of Dairy Science Supplement T132, 2017.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keeping Pasteurized NonSaleable Milk Clean

A study of 618 dairies in the US looked at post-pasteurization bacteria levels in calf milk. 

Even when the pasteurizer was working well (that is, less than 20,000 cfu/ml coming right out of the pasteurizer) 49% of the samples increased in bacteria count by the time the last calf was fed. That is almost one-half of the samples went UP in bacteria count.

For the moment let's assume that you have this problem - a high post-pasteurization contamination level. And, let's assume you are at least trying to wash equipment to reduce this problem (right temperature water, proper chemicals, correct wash time).

Some of the favorite places where bacteria hide?

1. If you have any sort of tank or closed container, check out the inside surface of the top. I frequently find that mechanical wash systems do not clean these surfaces consistently and well. Often the only solution is manual scrubbing with a brush.

2. Pumps - if the feeding system has a pump, this piece of equipment is not always part of the mechanical wash cycle - the pump has to have circulating rinse, wash and acid rinse water in order to clean well, not just an end-of-wash pump out.

3. Joints in  plumbing - many of our milk-feeding systems are constructed with plumbing fittings from the hardware store, not the milking equipment dealer. Any joint that cannot be broken down (the kind that has a release clip with a gasket and comes completely apart) is a perfect site for milk residues to build up, collect bacteria, grow bacteria and release bacteria into the milk supply. The only solution I know of is periodic tear downs and scrubbing.

4. If you feed with bottles the favorite places are the inside of nipples and the inside shoulder of the nursing bottle. 

Just for review, the recommended protocol on washing milk containers is found HERE (Spanish version is HERE).

Just to review, the ideal samples for identifying these contamination issues are:
1. Raw milk (before pasteurizing)
2. Direct from pasteurizer
3. First calf fed - "as-fed" sample
4. Last calf fed - "as-fed" sample

An "as-fed" sample is one taken as the milk flows into the feeding bucket. If you feed with bottles the "as-fed" sample is taken from the end of the nipple just before the bottle is given to a calf. 

Reference: Yoho, W.S.B, and Others, "Variation on nutrient content and bacteria count of pasteurized waste milk fed to dairy calves." American Journal of Dairy Science Supplement T132, 2017.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Calf Jacket Protocol: A Model Protocol

When to start using calf jackets? When to take off jackets?

I noticed a post on Twitter by Synergy Farm Health Calf Club on November 27th 2017. They gave credit to Jamie Robertson of LMS (in UK). Click HERE to go to the Calf Jacket Protocol.

With my clients I have found significant variation among the calf care persons on a dairy - the herd manager and calf care persons really have not agreed on when to put them on and when to take them off. 

The idea of using a min/max thermometer sounds good to me. With my own calves I kept a min./max thermometer in an old broken hutch to track the maximum daily variation so I know how easy it is to use one. A Google search showed min/max thermometers in a range available between $15-$25.

While you may not agree with all the details in this protocol I encourage you to consider using this model to make up a calf jacket protocol that fits your dairy.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Bottle Feeding Colostrum

The December issue the calf management newsletter is now posted online at in the Resources section or just click HERE.

A summary of the main points in the letter:

  • Bottle feeding promotes rapid and efficient absorption of antibodies from colostrum.
  • Start with a clean nipple and bottle using clean, wholesome colostrum.
  • Plan ahead when cold weather bottle feeding colostrum.
  • Pick out the right nipples.     
  • Monitor swallowing, avoid choking.
If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new issue is posted online send an e-mail to me at

Remember that many back issues are posted at in the Resource section, click on Calf Management Newsletter.