Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gone to hell in a handbasket

 Another saying for this situation is, "The wheels fell off the wagon."

Everything is going along great. Bacteria counts in colostrum  way below thresholds. Blood serum total protein values look good - well under 5 percent below 5.0. Treating two out of the 140+ calves with electrolytes. No calves currently being treated for pneumonia. Have not lost a calf since November.

WHAM!  Within five days we are treating the better part of a whole row (15 calves) for scours. Three dead calves in the past five days.

What to do next?
Choice #1: Chicken Little response - The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Engage in lots of finger pointing, casting blame on anyone and everyone. Not my favorite choice.

Choice #2: Pound on my favorite nail - assume that everytime something like this happens the cause is the same. Take out my favorite tool, a hammer, and pound on my favorite nail. For example, jump on the persons feeding colostrum and hammer away on feeding time and quantity fed. Still not my favorite choice.

Choice #3: Review the list of factors most likely to be connected with scours and check out each one. Start with calving pen management, go on to colostrum management, on to calf housing, on to feeding, and so on. Clearly, this is my choice. This process takes time and persistence; not a lot of fun.

In the case I am working on one of the factors was bedding. The summer protocol of using 1/2 a small bale of straw as the initial hutch bedding continued to be used as fall and winter came on. As long as the weather remained mild this practice did not stress calves too much. When a ten-day long cold snap arrived (highs in single digits, lows below 0F at night) hypthermia began to stress out young calves. Their ability to prevent clinical infections dropped off. Scours treatment rate jumped up with the weakest calves unable to maintain core body temperatures.

Most likely solution? Go back to using a full bale of straw to prepare hutches for calves. Be sure calves are "fluff dry" before they go out into the hutches.

Please don't give into the impulse to shout, "The sky is falling."

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