Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Drying Off a Calf
Link fixed

Thanks to folks that send me an e-mail that the link in the Drying Off a Calf post was not working.

As of 1:45 pm on Tues Jan 30 it should be fixed. If all else fails use this URL


Thanks for your patience. 

Brix for Milk Replacer Solids?
Questions about Accuracy with MR

In this article posted online on January 29 in Progressive Dairyman
click HERE
Dr. Vermeire presents findings that suggest significant bias when  using a Brix refractometer to estimate solids content of milk replacer.

He notes that variations in protein sources as well as in added fats from batch to batch of milk replacer can lead to unpredictable solids values.

His advice is to be sure to have a really good mixing protocol - especially measuring the milk replacaer powder accurately - he suggests weighing when mixing in volumes other than whole bags.

I will watch carefully in the next few months to see if additional data become available to support those presented by Dr. Vermeire.

By the way, the author makes a point to assure us that this technology, Brix refractometer, continues to be a reliable method of estimating solids in both colostrum and whole milk.

Monday, January 29, 2018

How high can bacteria counts get in colostrum?

I came across a study that included analyzing the colostrum samples for total bacteria counts and coliform bacteria counts.

They did a series of dilutions in order to get reasonable estimates of very high numbers.

What were the highest counts?

total plate count - highest value 400,000,000 cfu/ml

coliform count - highest values 170,000,000 cfu/ml

Do you suppose with these bacteria counts the colostrum was a thick as yogurt?

Reference: Mandel, C. and Others, "Predictors of time to dairy calf bucket training." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9769-9774 December 2017.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Comparison of Colostrum Replacer and Maternal Colostrum: Jersey  & JerseyXHolstein Calves.

"The objective of this study was to determine the effect of feeding a commercially available colostrum replacer versus pooled maternal colostrum on immunological status, growth and health in preweaned calves." (p1345)

Bottom Line - colostrum replacer works if you don't have clean maternal colostrum to feed.

Colostrum management - all the calves (N=1215) were fed at least 150g of IgG within 1 hour of birth. And both the colostrum replacer and maternal colostrum had either no or very very low bacteria counts. 

Note here that these calves were only fed colostrum once. And they were limited to only 150g of IgG. I recommend to my clients to include 200g IgG first feeding and to consider a second feeding 6 to 12 hours after the first feeding of another 100-200g IgG. So, consider these calves as getting the "basic" volume of IgG. 

Efficiency of absorption of antibodies - GREAT! If you feed enough high quality colostrum (or replacer) within an hour after birth the body does a good job of moving antibodies from the gut into the blood. Both colostrum and replacer had efficiency rates in the range of 34 to 36%. Those are good numbers.

Total protein values? Both averaged above 5.0.  Colostrum replacer average value was 5.2 and maternal colostrum average value was 5.8. These are good numbers considering that IgG intake was limited to only 150g IgG. 

Calf Growth  The calves were limited to only 4 quarts of non-salable milk per day. The growth rates were 0.7#/day for colostrum replacer calves and 0.8#/day for maternal colostrum calves. These calves with a limited supply of nutrients from milk increased their weight from birth to weaning by 62% for colostrum replacer and 65% for maternal colostrum.

Note here as an industry growth standard I  have adopted the national Dairy Calf & Heifer Association goal of doubling birth weight in 8 weeks. My clients that feed 2 pounds of milk replacer powder or 4 gallons of whole milk daily routinely average 1.7#/day gain at 56 days. 

Health Including diarrhea, respiratory disease and fever there were no differences between colostrum replacer and maternal colostrum calves. 

Mortality - The national standard from the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association for mortality under 8 weeks is less than 5%. Maternal-colostrum treatment calves had a 7.1% death rate while the colostrum-replacer treatment calves had a death rate of 9.4%. We can only guess that there were stressful circumstances (for example, weather, hygiene) that resulted in these elevated mortality rates.  

Reference: Lago, A. and Others, "Efficacy of colostrum replacer versus maternal colostrum on immulogical status, health and growth of preweaned calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:1344-1354 February 2018.                                                                                                              

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Overcrowding Wins Again

Overcrowding heifers has been shown over and over again to depress rates of gain and increase variability in growth within pens. This study reported over a 9% drop in average daily gain as overstocking increased. 

In this 91-day research with 900# heifers the stocking rates were 100, 125 and 150 percent. The comparisons were made on average daily gain, within pen variations in gains, and hygiene scores.

Depending on the two rations  (one included short straw and the other included long straw) the drop in rate of gain took place at different stocking rates.

For the ration including short straw the rates of gain dropped 9.4% as stocking went up from 100 to 125% with no change between 125% and 150%. [Actual change was from 2.2#/day down to just over 2# per day] The level of variation of gain within pen went up progressively from 100 to 125 to 150 percent stocking.

For the ration including long straw the rates of gain dropped about 5% as stocking went up from 125 to 150%. The level of variation of gain within pen went up progressively from 100 to 125 to 150 percent stocking.

I did not try to do an economic comparison using the value of rate of gain vs. cost of housing. The study did not place a value on the decrease in uniformity of rates of gain as overcrowding rates went up.

Dirty legs and flanks - the rate of soiled animals went up as soon as the stocking rates in all pens was greater than 100%.

Reference: Coblentz, W. K. and Others, "Effects of straw processing and pen overstocking on the growth performance and sorting characteristics of diets offered to replacement Holstein dairy heifers." Journal of Dairy Science 101:1074-1087.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dehydrated Calves often = Dead Calves

During periods of hot weather we seem to be quite aware of the threat of dehydration among our calves. However, it is easy to overlook the dangers of dehydration during periods of below freezing weather. 

You may want to look at this resource:
http://atticacows.com/library/newsletters/DehydrationR17169.pdf or click HERE.

The main point here are:

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.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Timing Blood Draw for Checking on Passive Transfer of Immunity

It is possible to get too eager to draw blood for checking on passive transfer of immunity from colostrum feeding.

With my own calves I had a routine of collecting blood the second day they were with me. All the calves born in the previous 24 hours were delivered to my calf hutches late every morning. They then received a PM milk feeding that same day and another feeding the next morning.

After cleaning up all the milk feeding equipment I went back to the calves to feed calf starter grain. It was convenient time to draw blood on the new arrivals from the previous day. All of them had at least 24 hours since they were fed colostrum. Blood antibodies levels should have peaked.

What can go wrong?
Not waiting at least 24 hours between colostrum feeding and drawing blood.

Let's say I drew blood every afternoon, 1 or 2PM. What if a calf was fed colostrum at 6AM, moved to her hutch at 11AM and I drew blood the same afternoon?  The antibodies would not have a chance to fully migrate into the blood in that short time between 6AM and 2PM. Test results would be invalid.

The resource, Passive Transfer of Immunity: When to Test, goes over all these points. You can go to it by clicking HERE.  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cold Weather Calf Care Checklist

What is easier than a checklist?

Zip down through the items on the list - ok, ok, ok, ok, oops - forgot about that. That is the beauty of a checklist.

If you are in a climate where it is cold this time of  year this quick checklist might help you find the weak link in your calf management. 

Click HERE for the checklist. 


Monday, January 8, 2018

Dry Calf? Good Cold Weather Management

If you do not already have a routine procedure in place to get newborn calves dry maybe you need one. 

This resource, "Drying Off a Calf." reviews:

When to dry off the calf? 

How dry is “dry”? 

Calf coats go on dry calves! 

Towels and their care.

 Drying the calf – techniques that work.

While getting a dry haircoat may not seem to be important during warm summer weather, it may make the difference between a live and dead calf in cold winter conditions.

Click HERE to go to the resource.
Or, paste this url in your browser