Thursday, February 5, 2015

When is a Pound Not a Pound?

Question: When is a pound not a pound? 
Answer: When one is guessing about the amount of milk replacer powder being fed!

A calf consultant friend related this event to me yesterday.

She visited a dairy farm in late January. The calves looked thin and many showed symptoms of diarrhea. Many of them required treatment with antibiotics. She suggested that the dairy should consider feeding more milk replacer - supposedly they were feeding one pound of powder daily (about 8 ounces of powder mixed into two quarts twice daily, mixed in individual pails for each calf).

Her recommendation was to increase the feeding rate to about 1.3 pounds or around 21-22 ounces daily. The idea clearly was to do a better job of meeting both the maintenance needs of calves and giving them some extra energy for growth.

The reaction was resoundingly negative. No. No. No. This feeding rate would make the scours issue that was not good even worse. No. No. No.

Give her credit for not just walking away given this response. She persisted and suggested that they weigh the milk replacer that they were currently using. 

Here is the surprise! They were mixing one pound of powder in two quarts of water for each feeding. Yes, that is correct. They were mixing a cocktail with incredibly high concentration of solids. Add to this that the dairy was quite casual about making sure calves had free-choice water. It is no wonder that the calves had diarrhea. 

If I understood the conversation correctly the dairy agreed to cut back to about 10 ounces of powder mixed in two quarts of water - that's a little under 15 percent solids, down a lot from the milk shake that they were feeding. 

So, when is a pound not a pound?

Answer: When there is personnel turnover - the person leaving trains the new person - have this happen twice and the new person's performance has little connection to what should be happening. The one pound per day turned into one pound per feeding!

Moral of the story? Having current employees train new ones can be a risky business.

When I hear how the calves are doing with the new feeding program I will pass it on to you. Have yet another good day.

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