Only Treat the Sick Ones
False Economy in Managing Coccidosis
The conversation runs sort of like this:
Me: How are you making out with your coccidiosis control program?
My penny-pinching dairyman (PPD): Not so good. We are still having to treat a lot of heifers in the transition barn pens. We catch each one and drench her. It takes a lot of time, you know. They have to be drenched for five days in a row.
Me: Have you ordered the milk replacer with the coccidiostat mixed in it?
PPD: Well, no. It was going to add $.xx per bag. And, anyway, those calves on milk replacer are not the ones that are sick.
Me: I thought we agreed that all the calves need to have a coccidiostat in their ration to shut down "egg" shedding. Remember how we talked about adding (x brand coccidiostat) to both the calf starter grain and transition barn pellets? Have you made that change yet?
PPD: Well, no. It was going to add $ per ton. Anyway, we are doing better just treating the sick ones.
Oh, my. How to get the idea of managing exposure levels across to this "thrifty" dairyman? I tried to explain how infection levels reflect shedding rates. It only takes a few heavy-shedding animals to raise the exposure level for all the heifers in the pen.
We also talked about how sub-clinical coccidosis depresses feed conversion rates resulting in slower growth and unthrifty appearance. It is a challenge to get practice changes when low growth rates and unthrifty appearance are seen as "normal."
Me: Anything else we need to talk about today?
PPD: Well, I think we may need a different grain mix. We are spending too much time treating so many of them for scours. It must be the grain mix. What do you think about adding roasted soybeans?
Me: [Sam - bite your tongue!] Have you talked with your nutritionist about this? Has he suggested including (x brand ionophore)?
The conversation headed downhill from there. He is convinced that changing the grain mix being fed to the transition heifers will decrease the amount of time they are spending treating scouring heifers one at a time in these pens.