Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Cold Weather Calf Care

You say, "Oh, no. Not another cold weather care newsletter!" Yup! Yet another one. Each one of these newsletters about cold weather care for young dairy calves has several unique ideas - so look through this one to see if you pick up an idea or two. 

The Iowa State Cooperative Extension Dairy staff member, Dr. Ryan Breuer, covers familiar ground and included several practical "How To" hints. 

The URL is 

Or, you can click HERE.


Monday, December 3, 2018

What is all this fuss over nesting scores for calves 
during cold winter weather?

The principle of "nesting" in bedding for young dairy calves is creating a micro-environment. Workers at the University of Wisconsin pioneered in developing this concept. The short video featured here in this blog explains the concept and, with pictures, demonstrates the 3-value scale.

The URL is

or, try clicking HERE to go to the podcast video presentation.

I was fortunate when raising calves in the cold western New York climate to have a generous supply of long wheat straw for my calves. As early as the first of November in this climate I began to bed for #3 score bedding. 

Even on winter stormy days when there were just not enough hours to get even the basics done just before the afternoon milk feeding I tossed a couple of straw bales into my JD Gator. For the very youngest calves I shook out an extra flake or two of straw in their hutches. I slept better in my warm bed at home those nights knowing these baby girls had a "nest" to help keep them warm.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Webinar: "Winter Calf Care Essentials"
or, Baby, it's cold outside"

Just a reminder that a webinar is available on cold weather calf care essentials. Nothing astonishingly new here - just solid basics. I watched it today.

If you are new to calf care there is a wealth of information here. I suggest watching it twice to get the nitty-gritty details.

If you have an extensive background in calf care you will find it amazing how many little details have slipped back in your consciousness. I know I kept saying, "Oh, yeah. I know that but I have not thought of it recently."

Kathy Barrett, dairy extension specialist at Cornell's ProDairy program and Jerry Bertoldo, DVM narrate the webinar. Visuals are clear, to the point and hammer on the basics of cold weather management. 

Webinar runs about 55 minutes. I suggest you give it a try - I'll bet you will pick up at least one or two calf care tips that could improve your cold weather care. 

Here is the URL
or click HERE

At the site scroll down to October 26, 2016.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Importance of Rumen Development in Calves

Abby Bauer, Associate Editor at Hoard's Dairyman, wrote a useful summary of remarks made by Dr. Jud Heinrichs, Penn State Univ., at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Calf Care Workshop in early November, 2018. 

Dr. Heinrichs' emphasized the importance of developing the rumen early in the life of our dairy calves. He reminded the participants that by 3 to 4 months of age the rumen should be the main compartment of the digestive system. 

He said, "Grain intake is what does it."

He explained that it takes 21 to 28 days to grow the rumen once she starts eating starch (that is, calf starter grain). 

Let me note here that if on the average my calves begin regularly eating at least a small handful of grain daily at I need to add 21 to 28 days before pushing them off of milk.

Let's look at what this means for beginning to wean calves: 
Start regular grain intake at 14 days, start weaning process at 35 to 42 days.
Start regular grain intake at at 21 days, start weaning process at 42 to 49 days.

Experience has shown that higher milk/milk replacer feeding rates (more than 4 quarts daily) delays the time for calves regularly eating grain. When I was feeding 8 quarts daily (15% solids) most of my calves took about three weeks (21 days) before cleaning up a handful of grain every day. So, following Dr. Heinrichs' recommendation, on the average, I did not start cutting back on milk until 40-42 days.

When I stepped down their milk nearly all of my calves compensated by increasing calf starter grain consumption. 

Dr. Heinrichs observed that the time to introduce forages is after calves have a well developed rumen. My calves increased their grain intakes as milk was stepped down to the range of 4 to 6 pounds (1.8 - 2.7kg) daily. He suggested that when this level of grain intake is sustained introducing forages is appropriate - they will have a desire to balance their rumen pH and chew their cud. 

Thanks to Abby Bauer, Hoard's Dairyman, for reporting on this event.

Monday, November 26, 2018

What are the Chances of the Dairy 
Not having any calves with Cryptosporidia
or Giardia?

In 2014 the National Animal Health Monitoring System completed a calf study involving 104 dairy operations in 13 states. This was an 18-month longitudinal study involving 2,545 heifer calves. Holstein calves made up 89% of the population. By herd size, the study included:
  • Small (30-99cows)            20%
  • Medium (100-499 cows)   32%
  • Large (500+ cows)            48%
Fecal samples were collected from 2,323 calves at a mean of 21.9 days of age.

"Almost all operations had at least 1 calf positive for CryptosporidIium (94.2%) or Giardia (99.0%) and 84.6% of operations had calves that tested positive for both Cryptosporidium and Giardia

Overall, 43% of calves tested were positive for Cryptosporium and 30.4% were positive for Giardia.

What are the chances of my dairy not having any calves shedding Cryptosporidium or Giardia? Just about zero!

Best management practices to reduce the spread of these parasites focus on cleanliness. Clean calving facilities, clean place to call home, clean colostrum, clean milk.

Background info on these two parasites may be found at:
Crypto - click HERE
Giardia - click HERE

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Calf Management Webinars

This is a series of 8 webinars narrated by Dr. Bob James (owner of Down Home Heifers, formerly professor of dairy science, Virginia Tech Univ.). The webinars are about 60 minutes long in English.

To listen to any or all of the 8 webinars go to: 
https://www.delaval.com/en-us/about-us/us/events/calf-college/ or click HERE.

You have to register (i.e., name, address, etc) for the webinar series and then enjoy.

I especially liked the November 2 webinar "Managing the Calf Feeder System" where he reviewed basics of managing an automatic feeder program. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

When and How to Disbud Dairy Calves

This short summary may be useful for training staff for disbudding dairy calves. It is short and available in printable format at this location: https://afs.ca.uky.edu/content/dairy-when-and-how-disbud-dairy-calves or click HERE.

Key points:
Disbud Dairy Cows graphic 1
Disbudding calves younger than 6 weeks old

Providing pain relief: anaesthetics and NSAIDs]

Take home messages:
  • Removing horn buds from a calf is much easier and less painful than removing the horn after it attaches to the skull.
  • Aim to disbud calves before 2 days of age with paste, or calves 1 to 6 weeks old with a hot-iron disbudder.
  • Always use sedatives, local anaesthetics, and NSAIDs when disbudding to improve animal welfare level.
  • Develop a sedation and a pain management protocol or a calf care SOP with your local veterinarian.
  • Consider using polled genetics.

Reference: DGrinter, Lori and Others, "When and how to disbud dairy calves." Kentucky Dairy Notes November, 2018.