Protecting Calves from Stress
Some stresses seem to be unavoidable. We have to wean all of the calves eventually. Their ration will change. Their housing will change.
We know that the changes in the calf's body caused by stress can have negative consequences. What, then, can we do to reduce these "bad" effects?
In a recent consultation we (owner, me) talked about improving the overall well-being of the calves as a means of compensating for these stresses. Calves were "flat-lining" (no growth) for a month after weaning, many requiring treatment for pneumonia.
Changes that were considered to improve the overall well being of the included these:
1. Strengthen the colostrum management program - increase the volume fed from the current one 2-quart feeding; try to get more calves fed sooner after being born, start checking colostrum quality so the best quality can be fed for first feedings. The vet will take blood samples to check on passive transfer effectiveness. Try to get readings for 10 to 12 calves total.
2. Feed more milk to preweaned calves - feed more than the current 2 quarts twice a day of 20-20 milk replacer (currently mixed 8oz. makes two quarts).
3. Change calf starter grain feeding program - currently fills bucket when calf is a week old and leaves it until it gets empty - talked about keeping only enough starter grain in buckets close to consumption rate and dumping them at least once a week.
4. Check on how well these efforts to improve overall well-being are working. Using a heart girth weight tape get some birth:weaning weights to get actual growth rates [industry standard is now to double weight in 56 days]. As they are weaned, try to get 10 calves.
We also talked about the weaning procedures and weaning pen management but that is a discussion for another day.