Thursday, September 26, 2013

Runny Noses and Coughing is NOT Normal
 
The children are back in school. In kindergarten when the children come together to share pathogens we tend to think it is "normal" for lots of runny noses and coughing.
 
But, for calves less than 3 months of age let's not fall into the trap of thinking that runny noses and coughing is "normal."
 
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association web site has a section called "Gold Standards."  [click HERE to go there] The section on morbidity - pneumonia shows upper thresholds for pneumonia (runny noses and coughing are symptoms) of 10 percent of calves treated between 1 and 60 days of age and 15 percent of calves treated between 61 and 120 days.
 
These pneumonia treatment rates need to be considered upper limits. It's much more desirable to have lower rates of treatment.
 
Calves need a good start in life. That means plenty of clean, high quality colostrum ASAP after birth. What a good way to reduce the chances of pneumonia! Click HERE for a broader perspective on preventing pneumonia or bovine respiratory disease (BRD).
 
With calves in cold housing we seldom can do very much about changes in the weather. However, we can take steps to be sure the calves have plenty of energy and protein beyond their maintenance needs. I am still seeing dairies with very traditional milk replacer feeding programs. As weather in the northern climate areas continues its downward trend into freezing conditions these farms will start their seasonal wave of runny noses and coughing.
 
Click HERE to see the estimated gains for a 90 pound calf being fed 2 quarts twice daily of  20-20 milk replacer at the traditional mix (8 ounces makes 2 quarts of m.r.) rate. Note how at even the relatively mild 40F this feeding program fails to meet even the maintenance needs of a 90 pound calf.
 
When feeding calves at Noblehurst dairy I switched from 16 ounces per day of milk replacer powder to 30 ounces daily. My pneumonia treatment rate dropped from 25 percent to 5 percent among calves less than 60 days old. This was year after year - not just some fluke in the weather.

And, after we switched to a step-down weaning program that allowed calves to come up on calf grain two weeks before moving to groups our group-pen pneumonia treatment rate also dropped to less than 5 percent.

No, runny noses and coughing is NOT normal.

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