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.