Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Note on Cross-Sucking

In addition to the Calving Ease newsletter on cross-sucking (September, 2013 or click Here) data from a New Zealand study suggest another tool to use when trying to suppress this problem.[Margerison and Others, "The effect of solid feed diet on the oral and cross-sucking behavior of pre-weaned dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science E-Suppl 1, #615]

They compared feeding solid rations to preweaned calves of low forage alfalfa TMR (LF), higher forage alfalfa TMR (HF) or perennial rye grass hay with a pelleted starter (HPS). Calves were followed out to 12 weeks of age.

Cross-sucking was highest for the low forage ration, intermediate for the higher forage ration and lowest for the grass hay/pelleted starter ration. The authors conclude, "While cross-sucking was not entirely eliminated, providing perennial ryegrass hay along with a pelleted starter resulted in the least non-nutritive sucking behavior."

Thus,we have another tool in group housing - providing a limited amount of palatable hay - not so much as to suppress calf starter grain consumption (remember how small the rumen is at the pre-weaned stage) but enough to promote lots of cud chewing.

By the way, the grass hay/pellet ration calves had the highest dry matter intakes (3.7 pounds/day compared to 1.8 pounds/day for low forage TMR and 2 pounds/day for high forage TMR). Since dry matter intake drives growth these grass hay/pellet ration calves had the highest rate of gain.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Post-Weaning Digestion Impaired Among
Intensive-Fed Rapidly Weaned Calves

We have suspected from field observations that intensive-fed preweaned calves have problems digesting solid feeds in the early post-weaning period.

In an abstract entitled, "Performance of and digestion in calves fed conventional, moderate, and aggressive milk replacer programs," [Hill and Others, J.Dairy Sci Vol 97, E-Suppl 1, #613] results are reported for intensively-fed calves that received 2 pounds of milk replacer daily. These calves were compared to those fed 1 lb. and 1.5 lb. of powder daily. Thus, there were three treatment groups.

The intensive-fed calves were fed the full ration of powder up to 49 days. In contrast the calves receiving the lower amounts of powder until 42 days. The method of weaning is not described - perhaps it was done by abruptly in one day.

Not surprisingly, the calves fed less milk replacer powder ate more calf starter grain than the intensively-fed calves. Though not included in the brief abstract we can almost be certain that the calves fed less milk replacer powder began regularly consuming grain earlier in life than the calves receiving more powder. These facts would lead us to the conclusion that the levels of rumen development would vary with the highest level being among the calves that began to consume grain earliest in life and among the calves that consumed the largest volume of grain. 

NDF digestibility was analyzed on fecal samples collected on days 51-55 on trial from calves in all three treatment groups. The values reported were:
Lowest milk replacer group = 54%
Middle milk replacer group = 51%
Highest milk replacer group = 26%

Thus, what we have seen on farms is documented. Intensive-fed calves that are not weaned with enough time to let their rumen maturation reach the "mature enough to feed me" level are at a severe disadvantage. 

These data showing a NDF digestibility level of only one-half of the other calves reinforce the need to carefully plan a "step-down" weaning program for intensively-fed calves.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Collect Colostrum Sooner rather than Later

Have you heard this one?

"If I wait to collect colostrum from my fresh cows I will get more colostrum."

Sorry, life does not work that way. Recent research reported in the article entitled, "Milk production during the colostral period is not related to the later lactational performance in dairy cows" (Kessler, E. C. and Others, Journal of Dairy Science 97:2186-2192, April 2014), showed no relationship between the interval between calving and the volume of colostrum collected at first milking for both heifers and cows.

Waiting to collect colostrum is not an effective method to increase the volume of colostrum at the first milking.

But, there is a strong negative outcome of waiting for this first milking. Morin and Others reported that the longer one waits to collect colostrum after calving the lower the concentration of antibodies in the colostrum. Compared to milking a dam within 2 hours after calving, the antibody losses in colostrum were reported to be 17% at 6 hours post calving, 27% at 10 hours post calving and 33% at 14 hours post calving. 

Collect colostrum sooner rather than later in order to harvest the highest quality colostrum from your fresh animals. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Early Identification of Pneumonia Calves

It seems to be pretty well accepted that early identification and treatment of calves with pneumonia is a best management practice.

The guide developed by Sheila McGuirk (Univ. Wisconsin College of Vet. Med) has been very useful for me. See THIS link to find that guide for observing individual calves. 

When observing calves in individual pens or hutches I just assign one row on a ruled tablet to each calf. As I look at the calf I mark down her nasal and eye score as well as a scour score. After I finish walking all the calves I make a crude summary at the bottom of the last page counting up scores for all calves. That is, how many 0's, 1's, 2's and 3's for the whole population.

Today I found the group observation sheet at this site. Click HERE for this sheet. That way one can summarize scores with one row per pen. Dr. McGuirk suggests counting the number of abnormal scours (2's and 3's) for each of four observation points. She suggests the goal of less than 25% abnormal scores on any point. 

These scoring guides have been helpful in my consulting work as a way to teach the calf care personnel to observe calves. Each time a person visits the individual pen or hutch they have the opportunity to spot abnormal eye or nasal discharge. Bedding is a good time to observe for the calves as they are active jumping around - which ones are coughing?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Effectiveness of On-Farm Tools for  Measuring Colostrum Quality

That is the title of a report given at the Western Canada Dairy Seminar by Amanda Bartier and others in 2013.

After examining the data from 572 colostrum samples one of the conclusions they reached was that the current cut points for "good" colostrum may be lower than desirable for achieving successful passive transfer of immunity.

Assessment                         Current                  Authors' Suggested
Tool                                    Cut Points              Cut Points

Colostrometer                     50mg/ml                80mg/ml

Brix refractometer              22                          24

They continue:
"Implications: The cut points for identifying good quality colostrum may be different than previous literature suggests. This study also indicates that although the colostrometer is a more accurate tool over a range of IgG levels the Brix refractometer is useful at confirming truly good quality colostrum. Overall, using either tool is more beneficial than not measuring colostrum quality at all prior to feeding."

Bottom line for me? Adopt a colostrum management protocol that includes measuring quality.

BTW, it is good to be back at the vet clinic after two weeks on the lecture circuit in UK and a full week of really bad jet lag. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Off to England and Wales

I leave for England and Wales on Monday, September 22.

I will be meeting with dairy farmers in Kent, South Wales, Cornwall, Cheshire and North Wales between September 23 and October 2.

I am unsure of internet access as I move about the UK. Thus, a warning that postings here may be a bit irregular. I will, of course, store up stories about my farmer contacts to share as I have an opportunity. 

You may be sure that I will participate in quality control sampling of Cadbury chocolate at each place I visit.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Iowa State Calf Care Site

I just spent nearly an hour browsing at the Iowa State Calf care site.
Click Here to go there.

There is a wealth of information there about a wide range of calf rearing topics. You will surely find at least one resource that is of particular interest.

It has to be a good site because it contains a link to our web site at www.atticacows.com! JK!

If you have a favorite calf rearing resource site feel free to drop me a line so I can browse there as well.