Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dehorning Calves - In Public View?

On the last page of the most recent issue of Dairy Herd Management magazine (July 2014) Fred Gingrich, DVM, wrote about welfare issues and in particular I appreciated his short paragraph on dehorning.

I have done my share of calf dehorning - almost exclusively using hot-iron cauterization. My spouse always knew when I arrived at the house for supper whether or not dehorning had been on my schedule that day. 

As we moved through the 1980's and 90's we gradually moved this event earlier and earlier in a calf's life. By the late 1990's we were pretty consistent in meeting our goal of three to four weeks of age. In my mind this was an improvement - get the job done early in life. And, yes, I know we could have considered using paste dehorning but we just didn't.

Have you every heard of "brutacain?" Back in the 1980's we used brute force to restrain 8-week-old calves and cauterized without any anesthesia. It got the job done but it was rough on both me and the calves. 

I cannot recall exactly which year I started using a  local anesthetic (Lidocaine) before cauterizing - sometime in the 1990's. What an improvement! Rather than this being a huge fight I was in danger of being licked to death.

The vet techs at our clinic use this procedure now. They have a whole bag of calf halters. They start by placing a halter on a calf to be dehorned. Then the Lidocaine is injected. On to the next calf until all ten or more calves are tied up and anesthetized. Normally, by the time this work is done the first calf is nicely numb. Recently research has demonstrated the benefits of additional medication to relieve post-cauterization discomfort as well.

This is Fred's take on the process from the consumer public point of view:

"If you cannot dehorn while being videotaped for the world to see, perhaps you should be doing it differently."

If you cannot meet this standard he advises talking with your veterinarian about improving your dehorning protocols.

Monday, July 28, 2014

BSTP Testing Using CR
(Blood serum total protein testing when feeding colostrum-derived colostrum replacer)

The question came up about what standards to use when checking for passive immunity when colostrum-derived colostrum replacer is being fed to newborn calves.

Calves are being fed within an hour or two after birth. They receive between 180 and 200g of IgG in one feeding. Blood is drawn on day two for blood serum total protein testing. When feeding maternal colostrum the dairy was using the goals of 90 percent of calves at or above 5.0 and 75 percent of calves at or above 5.5g/dl. 

Is it appropriate to use the same standards now the calves are being fed colostrum replacer?

Fortunately, this question has been investigated (J. Helz, S. Godden, D.M. Haines, K. Leslie, "Association between serum total protein and immunoglobulin G measures in calves fed a whole colostrum derived colostrum replacer" AABP Proceedings, September, 2009, p195.).

The research included 187 calves from three different studies. They measured IgG directly as well as obtaining blood serum total protein values. The value of 10mg/ml is used as the minimum standard for successful passive transfer. Both maternal colostrum (one half of the calves) and maternal-derived colostrum replacer had blood serum total protein values of 5.0g/dl when the IgG value was 10mg/ml.

The authors concluded, "Producers can use the same serum TP cutpoint of 5.0g/dl to estimate passive transfer (IgG of 10mg/ml) whether the calves are fed whole colostrum derived colostrum replacer or maternal colostrum."

The authors note that they did not investigate this relationship for plasma-derived colostrum replacer.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Naive Blogger

Inexperienced and unsophisticated, that's me.

Today the farm that rents the land next to my home in western New York State is combining wheat. Now, you have to remember my personal experience combining wheat started with a PTO-powered, narrow-cut combine on which I stood at the back to tie off large burlap bags of the grain. These accumulated in a chute that would dump three bags at a time to make picking them up convenient.

This year nearly the entire farm next door was planted to winter wheat that is now ready to harvest. Last evening two huge John Deere combines showed up. They have headers that are so wide that they have to be taken off the combine and pulled sideways on a wagon in order to go down the road. They started harvesting this morning as soon as the dew was off the wheat. The entire wheat crop will be combined before the day is gone. There is a regular parade of 10-wheelers going back and forth to carry the grain away.

Technology certainly has changed. I visited the Cornell University ruminant research center not too long ago. The calves look great. Automatic milk replacer feeders permit scheduling intakes based on the maturity of the calf. I have not see it yet but I'll bet that somewhere there is a unit like this that feeds information to a smart phone app - from anywhere you can check on little Susie-Q to see if she is drinking her allotted milk replacer today. 

I was not forward enough thinking to see these advances back in 1984 or even 1994. The challenge for this naive blogger (and maybe some of the blog readership) is to understand the potential for these emerging technical tools and adapt them to improve the profitability of calf rearing - more live, healthy calves that have grown to their genetic potential that will make milk when they walk into the parlor. 

If you have a favorite "tech" adaptation or idea you could send it to me - - and now and then I can pass ideas along in Calves with Sam.

Now, I've got to go watch these big machines - you know what they say about men and their toys. If I ask nicely maybe one of the guys will let me ride along in the cab for a round or two!

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Calving Ease" Monthly Newsletter

I forgot that some folks do not know about the monthly newsletter on calf rearing that I have been writing since 1998. Some of the recent issues are:
  • Putting the Brakes on Bacteria Growth in Colostrum
  • Planning for Success: We Can Feed More without Scours
  • Hot Weather and Calves
  • Spring Slip-ups in Calf Care
  • Buying and Using Household Bleach
  • Try Sleeping on Concrete
  • Wash Water Always Above 120 F
The electronic access is Click on Calving Ease. 

If you are trying to find a resource on a particular topic you may wish to use the search feature - see the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Putting the Brakes on Bacteria Growth in Colostrum

  • In the United States we estimate that at least 45 percent of all colostrum fed to calves contains enough environmental bacteria to make calves sick.
  • About 77 percent of refrigerated colostrum has bacteria counts high enough to make calves sick (>100,000cfu/ml)
  • Warm colostrum is an ideal growth medium for bacteria.
  • Lowering colostrum temperature slows the rate of bacteria growth.
  • Adding a food-grade preservative slows the rate of bacteria growth.
These are the main points in the July issue of the monthly calf care newsletter, "Calving Ease."  This issue is available at our vet clinic web site, or just click July Newsletter.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You Would Not Eat Off of This Plate

At our house my wife and I wash our plates after each use. On one hand, our sanitation standards are not necessarily those to be used for calf feeding equipment. On the other hand, the use of effective sanitation practices for calf feeding equipment has been shown to be related to the need for treatments for diarrhea among calves.

As a dairy consultant working primarily in North America it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all the problems of calf rearing are exclusive to "us." In a recent article (D. Klein-Jobsti and others, "Farm characteristics and calf management practices on dairy farms with and without diarrhea: a case-control study to investigate risk factors for calf diarrhea" Journal of Dairy Science, August 2014 pp 5110-5119) two aspects of cleanliness were investigated in Austria.

One aspect was cleanliness of the calving area. Dairies with a separate place for calving that was kept clean had significantly fewer calves with diarrhea (scours) than those that had practices that allowed significant contact for newborn calves with dirty conditions. 

Another aspect of cleanliness was cleaning of calf feeding equipment. One one hand I was very interested to find that the problems these investigators found in Austria were the same as the ones I find regularly in North America.
  • Failure to wash feeding equipment after every use.
  • Frequent "washing" by simply rinsing with water.
On these farms a small number of buckets were used to feed milk to all the calves - that is, buckets were shared from one calf to another. Then, they were just rinsed with water on 7 out of 10 farms. I was puzzled that the scours rate among calves was not related to lack of feeding equipment sanitation the 100 farms they studied - maybe all the other farm conditions were more significant causes of diarrhea?

On the other hand, just because lax sanitation practices are common does not mean that they are desirable.

Just to remind readers, you can check HERE for a calf feeding equipment washing protocol that is both practical and effective.

What do you think about drinking milk from this bucket?


Monday, July 21, 2014

If All Else Fails, Read the All the Directions!

This was a case of many too many cases of passive transfer failure. The farm was facing a management challenge due to Johne's disease. One of the control measures adopted was to feed a colostrum replacer rather than maternal colostrum to newborn calves. The bag indicates the product should be mixed with 5 cups of 110-120F water and that feeding 2 bags is recommended for good passive transfer of immunity.

Following an extended episode of scouring calves the herdsman was convinced to check immunity levels among baby calves. The results revealed that too many of the calves had blood serum total protein levels below 5.0 - a commonly accepted threshold to determine passive transfer failure.

A review of mixing procedures showed that the water being used was both the correct temperature and volume. Since time of birth and time of colostrum replacer feeding were recorded for each calf it was easy to confirm that feedings were being done promptly after birth.

As we talked a worker came into the utility room to mix colostrum replacer for a newborn calf. She ran water in a pail, opened two packages of the colostrum replacer and proceeded to mix. 

You need to know that the dairy initially used a colostrum replacer with 100g IgG per package and fed 2 packages to each calf. Somewhere along the line the decision was made to switch to a colostrum replacer packaged with 60g IgG per package. Have you already guessed what happened?

Yes, you are correct. The new product's mixing instructions used the same temperature water but a different volume. That part got through to the folks mixing the product. However, the new product says, "To replace maternal colostrum feed calf 3 bags."  Ooops! Somehow that part of the directions was overlooked. Instead of feeding the recommended 180g IgG the calves were only receiving 120g.

The story does have a good ending. Once the protocol was corrected to use 3 bags of product per calf the blood serum total protein values improved and the proportion of calves needing treatment for scours went down. Amazing, reading ALL the directions does improve performance of a product.