Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Raising Calves a la Bob James in Australia

Great presentation by Dr. Bob James (Down Home Heifer Solutions company) at a dairy conference in Sydney, Australia.

Dr. Bob does a great job in 57 slides covering all the bases in critical issues for successful calf rearing.

It is located at 

Includes summaries of  recently published research on colostrum, milk feeding levels, housing alternatives and automatic feeders. 

Enjoy - Bob does a great job in pulling together a lot of what we know about getting calves off to a good start, preweaned nutrition and early calf care.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Weaning Readiness - It May be the Total Volume
Consumed, Not Just the Amount per Day?

In a July posting at www.calfnotes.com Dr. Jim Quigley asked the question, "How much energy is in my starter?" (Calf Note #209 with that title.)

As part of this discussion he observed, "the rumen develops in response to ALL of the starter a calf consumes, and not just the starter the calf consumes on a given day."

Thus, when assessing weaning readiness ideally one needs to know in addition to the current daily calf starter grain consumption but also have a rough idea of the total volume consumed over several weeks. 

These observations are consistent with earlier recommendations in this blog about keeping track of  how long (number of weeks) calves have been consistently eating starter. I  have been recommending waiting to fully wean calves not sooner that at least three weeks after they began to consistently eat a minimum of 1/2 pound of starter daily. 

My own calves on an intensive milk feeding program generally began to consistently eat 1/2 pound of starter between 21 and 28 days. After I reduced their daily milk replacer intake from 2 pounds to 1 pound of powder at about 35 days the majority of calves increased starter intakes from less than 1 pound daily to 2.5 to 3.5 pounds a day. 

By the end of 7 weeks (about 50 days) most of these calves had consumed between 40 and 50 total pounds of starter - most of this between 28 and 49 days of age - about three weeks. Knowing that I would be feeding a grower pellet in the weaned pens I fed 1/2 textured calf starter mixed with 1/2 grower pellet the last week in the hutches. 

When they were fully weaned sometime between 49 and 56 days most of them were eating between 4 and 5.5 pounds of this 1/2 and 1/2 blend daily. A pen of 5 in a weaning pen might eat only 20 pounds of grower pellets the first day or two after going into the pen but after a few days I usually had to feed 25 to 35 pounds of pellets daily (ad lib feeding). 

As a side note, when time permitted I fed a handful of good quality alfalfa hay in each grain bucket the last week calves were in hutches. Then I only fed as much hay in the transition pens the first week after moving as the calves would clean up in roughly 30 minutes. I did not feed ad lib hay until the third week in the transition pens.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Watch Those Twins!

"Twins had a 68% inceased risk of all-causes mortality compared with calves born as singletons." This meant that twins were 1.7 times more likely to die than their singleton counterparts.

This was the observation of a California research team that collect calf health data from 5 California dairies. They used information from 11, 945 calves.


The authors explain this issue:
"An increase in mortality risk in twin calves may be due to competition for nutrients during gestation, resulting in reduced vigor and health status after birth. Results of the studies by Gulliksen et al. (2009) and Mellado et al. (2014) suggest that it may be beneficial for calf caretakers to closely monitor calves that are born as twins for any clinical signs of illness during the preweaning period. [emphasis added] p7326

While raising my own calves in individual hutches I slipped a plastic cow leg strap in the rear "D" ring of the hutch. This reminded me as well as any other caretaker of the "twin" status of the calf.

As I think back to this time I recall that most of my attention to these twins was during the first two weeks when diarrhea (scours) was the most common problem.

The other time I used the "twin" identity was at weaning time. Once in a while based on too low a level of calf starter grain intake I delayed weaning on a twin. This allowed her to "catch up" with her herdmates and start life as a weaned calf with plenty of energy and protein from starter.

Reference: Dubrovsky, S. A. and Others, " Bovine respiratory disease (BVD) cause-specific and overall mortalilty in preweaned calves on California dairies: The BVD 10K study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7320-7328 (2019).

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sooner is Better for Colostrum Feeding:
But, How Much Better?

The September issue of Sam's Calf Management Newsletter has these main points:
·      Efficiency of antibody absorption 46 percent increase between feeding colostrum at birth vs. 6 hours later.
·        Volume of antibodies absorbed 33 percent increase between feeding colostrum at birth vs. 6 hours later.
·   Maximum concentration of antibodies (IgG) 40 percent increase between feeding colostrum at birth vs. 6 hours later.
  •    Prevalence of beneficial bacteria associated with colon mucosa was significantly greater when colostrum was fed at birth vs. 6 hours later.

The URL to use in your browser is


or just click
HERE to go to the newsletter.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Scours and respiratory disease in young calves are linked.

In a May 26, 2019 Hoard’s Dairyman article Dr. Ollivett (University of Wisconsin School of Vet. Med.) says “Young calves with diarrhea are much more likely to develop pneumonia than their herdmates that did not experience diarrhea.” By improving  gut heath we can expect to see fewer treatable cases of respiratory illness.

She observes “Often, abnormal manure is overlooked if the calf is not off feed or depressed. When you spend time specifically looking at fecal consistency, you might realize you have more of a problem than you thought.”

Especially where pneumonia issues are serious among 3 and 4 week-old calves, Dr. Ollivett recommends serious-level record keeping on diarrhea among 1 and 2 week-old calves. 

She notes that measuring weight gain during weeks 1-2 may reveal that intestinal health is not ideal. It is “normal” when calves receive adequate nutrition that they begin gaining weight before the end of the first week. If your calves are not gaining weight or losing weight by 14 days of age you may have found one of the causes of pneumonia in the subsequent  weeks.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Time of Colostrum Feeding Makes a Difference
Maximum IgG Concentration

Compare the maximum concentration of antibodies in the calf's blood between calves fed colostrum within 45 minutes after birth and calves fed colostrum 6 hours after birth.

All calves fed 7.5% of birth weight of heat-treated colostrum testing 62g/L antibodies. For example, 90 pound calf received a little over 3 quarts. This feeding contained about 180-185g of antibodies.

The maximum antibody concentration was:
Fed at 45 minutes = 25.5 mg/ml
Fed at 6 hours       = 18.2 mg/ml

Difference? 40 percent!

Is it a good management decision to delay colostrum feeding even out to 6 hours after birth?

Reference: Fisher, A.J. and Others "Effect of delaying colostrum feeding on passive transfer and intestinal bacterial colonizaton in neonatal male Holstein calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:30299-3109 (April 2018)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Good Summary Article
"4 steps to achieve successful passive transfer in newborn calves"
This article written by Amanda Fisher-Tlustos (University of Guelph) focuses attention on 4 key factors that drive successful passive transfer of immunity in newborn calves. 

It was published in the August 25 issue of Progressive Dairy (pp 54-55)

This is the URL

It's probably not a surprise that the steps are (1) Quality, (2)Quantity, (3) Timing and (4) Low bacteria count. You will enjoy seeing the newest research data.

Monday, August 12, 2019

How Much Energy is in My Calf Starter?
And, When to Wean Calves based on Starter Intake.

All of this and more at Jim Quigley's Calf Notes site. Calf Note 209, "How much energy is in my starter," asks these questions:
  • What makes a good starter?
  • What is the point when the gastrointestinal tract sufficiently mature to wean the calf?
  • Is the key fact how much starter the calf consumed today or how much she has consumed so far in her life?
Jim comments, "We may overestimate the contribution of ME (metabolizable energy) from starters early in life."


Friday, August 9, 2019

Why do Calves Get Sick

This is the title of a presentation given at the 2018 Healthy Calf Conference in Ontario, Canada.

Here is the link

The presenter, Mike Ballou from Texas Tech Univ., makes an easy to read presentation based on calf growth and development from birth. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Biosecurity for Calves: 5 Ways to Improve

The August issue of the calf management newsletter is now available at 

The 5 ways to improve biosecurity are:
·       No. 1 Buy separate boots for the calf facility.
·       No. 2 Make it easy and convenient to wear disposable gloves.
·       No. 3 Bleach everything.
·       No. 4 Segregate sick calves where possible.
·       No. 5 Restrict visitor access.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Water Intake of Calves Fed
Conventional vs. Accelerated Rates of Milk Replacer

Will calves fed at accelerated rates of milk replacer drink more or less water when compared to calves fed milk replacer at conventional rates?

A feeding trial with calves fed ad lib water and calf starter grain starting on day 3 in addition to their milk replacer ration made this comparison.

Throughout the five weeks of the trial the calves on the accelerated milk replacer ration drank more water than those on the conventional ration. For example, during week 3 of the trial the conventional calves averaged 27 ounces (.84 qts.) per day while those on the accelerated milk replacer ration averaged 68 ounces (2.1 qts).

Take a look at the chart showing the water consumption over the 5 weeks of the trial. Paste the URL below in your browser


or click HERE.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Need a "Checklist" for a Calf Job?

Sometimes a quick "checklist" helps us touch all the bases when doing a calf-related job.

For a summary of all the checklists at the www.atticacows.com website, type the word checklist in the upper right-hand corner search box.

I got 94 hits. A quick scan shows that about 1/2 of them are duplicates. There is a good chance you will find a checklist that meets your needs.

More focused searching?
By adding "protocol" to the search I reduced the hits to 60.
By adding "colostrum" to the search I reduced the hits to 54.
By adding "pneumonia" to the search I reduced the hits to 8.

Enjoy your checklist.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Transition Milk - It's Value for Immunity

Based on a sample of 75 Holstein-Friesian cows (pasture-based dairy Ireland, 2nd lactation and greater)  samples were collected for the first 5 milkings after colostrum was harvested.

This is how the transition milk samples compared to colostrum (remember we want a refractometer value of 23 or greater or IgG concentration of 50 or greater for first feeding):

Sample   No.Samples              Median                      Median
                                         Brix refractometer (%)    IgG Concentration(g//L)
Colostrum   68                         25.6                              99.6
T#1             63                         17.8                              43.5
T#2             61                         12.6                              12.5
T#3             59                         11.8                                5.3
T#4             53                         11.4                                1.9
T#5             41                         11.2                                1.8

Colostrum was great stuff - use for first feeding.

First transition milking (T#1) - Still pretty strong for immunity - use for second feeding. In a pinch, this could be used for first feeding. Refractometer does a good job evaluating for immunity potential. And, for localized immunity in the gut for the first week of life this milking has great potential.

Second transition milking (T#2) - to be fed anytime during the first week of life to promote localized immunity in the gut.

3rd - 5th transition milking - not going to confer a great deal in localize immunity in the gut but super for nutritional value - still higher in solids than market milk and packs a nice extra energy boost from higher milk fat content. Refractometer readings less reliable at these low IgG concentrations compared to colostrum.

Reference: Rayburn, M.C. and Others, "Use of a digital refractometer in assessing immunoglobulin G concentrations in colostrum and the first 5 transition milkings in an Irish dairy herd." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7459-7463 August 2019.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Failure of Passive Transfer

Inadequate transfer of antibodies from the dam's colostrum into the calf's blood is a failure of passive transfer. 

While the process is biologically determined how well the transfer takes place on modern dairies is determined by how well humans manage harvest, manage and feed colostrum to newborn calves.

A recently reported study of calves in California dairies shows how widely these success rates can vary.

Dairy     Percent Calf     Blood Serum Total 
              Mortality          Protein (Average)
#1            3%                      6.4
#2            6%                      6.2
#3            7%                      6.2
#4           28%                     5.5
#5           39%                     5.7 (huge variation here from high to low BSTP so the average here
                                                   hides many, many calves with very low BSTP)

What we do as calf enterprise managers makes a difference.
These three words describe the foundation of colostrum management and all three of them depend on calf care personnel.

Reference: Dubrovsky, S.A. and Others "Bovine respiratory (BRD) cause-specific and overall mortality in preweaned calves on California dairies: The BRD 10K Study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7620-7328 August 2019.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Reminder About Twin Heifers

Just a reminder about the need to give our twin heifer calves a little special attention.

Recent work involving 11,470 calves from 5 California dairies followed calves from birth through weaning. When considering calves that died (mortality) the overall mortality rates varied from 1.1 percent to 7.2 percent.

Specifically, twin heifer calves were found to have a 1.7 times greater risk of dying compared to singleton calves. These findings were similar to previous studies as well. 

What is a manager to do? 
1. Identify twin calves - if the calf care workers do not see the calves born have the maternity workers mark twins (for example, using a paint stick place a "T" on the calves' forehead).

2. Place a reminder on the housing for twins (for example, a cow leg band) - make it easy to remember that these calves need to have a little extra attention especially during the first month of life. 

3. As weaning approaches provide the opportunity for an extra week or two of the milk ration for twins if they are significantly smaller that other calves the same age. Delaying moving into transition calf pens may provide them an opportunity to compete for feed and space with less risk of pneumonia.

Reference: Dubrovsky, S.A. and Others "Bovine respiratory (BRD) cause-specific and overall mortality in preweaned calves on California dairies: The BRD 10K Study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7620-7328 August 2019.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Spanish Language Calf Management Resources
at www.calffacts.com

Did you know that there are fourteen Spanish Language calf management resources at the calffacts.com website?

You go to www.calffacts.com and scroll down to SPANISH and they are all grouped together. Their equivalent resource in English is listed alphabetically in this same library (e.g., Lavando los recipientes de la leche appears as Washing Milk Containers). 


Friday, July 12, 2019

Pneumonia in Calves
Aspirating Liquids

When faced with a pneumonia challenge among young calves it is good to remember the role of aspirating liquids when trouble shooting.

I wrote a special resource sheet advising calf feeders NOT to cut nipples when frustrated with too slow bottle feeding. It also contains alternative steps to take when faced with this issue.

In SPANISH go to this location:
or just click HERE,

In ENGLISH go to this location: 
or just click HERE

If you think that cutting nipples does not happen on your dairy I suggest checking the nipples in your utility room! I think you are in for a surprise.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

An Update on Using a Heart Girth
Tape for Estimating Calf Weights

It is useful to have estimates of heifer calf weights. In the absence of animal scales it has been established that the heart girth measurement is a reasonably accurate way to estimate body weights. Various tape designs have been used over time - 1936, 1961 and 1992. Heinrichs comments on the need for verifying the tape designs, 
"Whereas the body weight and heart girth relationship has been reliable over time, the regression equation to estimate body weight and heart girth have changed, ... most likely due to alterations in breeding and selection programs that have affected animal conformation, in additional to other traits, over time."

Thus, it was judged to time to reassess the accuracy of the 1992 design. Based on 1,498 measurements from 586 animals the authors compared heart girth with scale weights. The correlation between the actual and predicted body weight was 0.98. 

"Upon comparing the previously developed hearth girth to body weight equation with 2 independent data sets, we concluded that the previous equation converting heart girth to body weight for Holstein dairy heifers (Heinrichs, 1992) remains valid for the current genetics and type of Holstein dairy heifers."

Keep using the tape you have for Holstein dairy calves. Remember to place the tape correctly around the calf right behind the front legs. Pull tightly enough to compress hair coat but not to stretch the tape. 

Reference: Heinrichs, A. J., B.S. Heinrichs, C. M. Jones, P.S. Erickson, K.F. Kalscheur, T.D. Nennich, B.J. Heins and F.C. Cardosoll "Short Communication: Verifying Holstein heifer heart girth to body weight prediction equations." Journal of Dairy Science 100:8451-8454 (2017)

Friday, July 5, 2019

July Calf Management Newsletter
"Water - Just Do It!"

The July 2019 calf management newsletter is entitled "Water: The Magic Growth Promoter."

The main points:
  • Just do it! Make clean water available to dairy calves from Day 1!
  • Why feed water before 14 to 21 days?
  • Why feed water if calves are drinking milk/milk replacer?
  • Why feed water during freezing weather?
  • Tips for more efficient water feeding.

or click HERE.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

When to separate cow and newborn calf?

This is a continuing question for the dairy industry. On one hand, there appears to be increasing concern in the general public that early separation of cow and calf is an animal welfare issue. On the other hand, do we have documented evidence that early separation has benefits for either cow or calf or both?

Two recent reviews of published research appeared in the July issue of the Journal of Dairy Science. One review evaluated the impact of suckling for some time after birth on subsequent milk production and found on effect of length of contact time between dam and calf.  Regarding calf growth, holding amount of milk consumed constant, length of contact with the dam had no effect on growth rates. (Meagher)

The other review emphasized the need for consistent calf care to insure consumption of clean, high quality colostrum early in life in adequate volume. In my reading the presence or absence of the dam when this took place had no effect - some fed manually, some provided assistance for nursing to be sure calves suckled an adequate volume soon after birth - either way, adequate levels of passive immunity was achieved. Authors comment, "Various types of farmer intervention, including careful observation and supplementary feeding [of colostrum], may be beneficial regardless of whether the calf is separated from the cow." 

Pathogen transfer was another question addressed. It might be possible that extended cow/calf contact might favor transfer of certain parasites and viruses while having no effect on the transfer of others. More research is needed to pin down the specifics. In the meantime we are called on to use common sense precautions. 

Commenting on Johnes transmission, authors note that "in some herds, cow-calf separation has supplanted control strategies for which concrete evidence exists to tie the respective strategy to a reduction in MAP prevalence."(5793) WOW! I Agree! Don't let the practice of limited cow-calf contact blind you to other risky management practices that may have crept silently into your calf operation!

Further, the authors observe, "There is evidence for a synergism of infection risk in the calving area, based upon the level of environmental cleanliness, udder hygiene, and presence of other lactating animals. Given the evidence that we have, this review indicates that "prompt calf removal should not be viewed as a substitute for proper hygiene and management in the maternity area." [emphasis added by me]

In general, if the calf enterprise provides good colostrum management and a clean environment for calves the presence of the cow has no negative effects on calf health (scours, pneumonia). Thus, independent of these best management practices there seem to be few if any benefits for early cow/calf separation.

Where do I come down on cow/calf separation? 
  • Whatever maternity area management rules we have on our dairy, they need to be practical so they can be followed consistently by everyone.
  • No matter how the colostrum gets into the calf, she always needs at least the minimum of 200gm of IgG's ASAP to insure effective passive transfer of immunity - suckle, manual feeding, and always clean.
  • No manure meals - the first thing in the calf's mouth should be clean colostrum regardless of how we do this. No manure in the colostrum, no manure from the pen, no manure from licking any adult animal's hair coat, no manure from dirty teats, no manure period!
  • Cow-calf contact in the period immediately after birth can improve the adaptation of the calf to the new world outside of mom. Dam contact with the calf (especially in unassisted deliveries) can do a world of good in stimulating normal breathing and achieving a vigorous response to the new environment.

Meagher, R. K. and Others, " Invited Review: A systematic review of the effects of prolonged cow-calf contact on behavior, welfare, and productivity." Journal of Dairy Science 102: 5765-5783 July 2019
Beaver, A. and Others, "Invited Revies: A systematic review of the effects of early separation on dairy cow and calf health." Journal of Dairy Science 102: 5784-5810 July 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019

How Much Does BRD Reduce Growth 
among Preweaned Calves?

A research team examined a population of calves that after an initial period of being raised in individual pens were moved to an automatic calf feeder barn. In this barn they used thoracic ultrasonongraphy (TUS) for diagnosis with a positive case defined as the presence of consolidated lung tissue greater than or equal to 1 square centimeter.

Average daily gain data were also collected for calves at 50 days of age. Positive BRD calves averaged 730gm/day compared to negative BRD calves at 840gm/day [1.6#/day vs. 1.85#/day]. In other words, health calves gain at a rate 12 percent higher than BRD positive calves. 

Note that even the calves growing at the lower rate still doubled their weight in  the first two months of life.

Reference: Cramer, M.C. and T.L. Olivett, " Growth of preweaned, group-housed dairy calves diagnosed with respiratory disease using clinical respiratory scoring and thoracic ultrasound - A cohort study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:4322-4331 July 2019 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Separation of Dam and Calf after Birth

In a recent review of published research on the health consequences of the time a newborn calf spends with the dam
[Annabelle Beaver, Rebecca K. Meagher, Marina A. G. von Keyserlingk, and Daniel M. Weary "Invited review: A systematic review of the effects of early separation on dairy cow and calf health" J. Dairy Sci. 102:5784–5810 July 2019] the authors show that there are very mixed results of cow/calf separation compared to continued contact.

In  some cases rates of scours, cryptosporidiosis, Johnes infection and respiratory illness were the same regardless of the management of cow/calf separation. In other research reports immediate separation seemed to improve calf health conditions while other reports showed better calf health when calves were allowed to remain with their dams.

The authors make this observation:

"The evidence we have reviewed indicates that prompt calf removal should not be viewed as a substitute for proper hygiene and management in the maternity area."

Thus, I conclude that my current recommendation for getting the calf out of the calving area as soon as she is able to stand is best for long-term calf health. Our goal is to prevent "manure meals" regardless of the source (bedding, dam, other adult cows).

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Salmonella Dublin: Clinical Challenges and Control

Dr. Simon Peek, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, made a presentation with title at a seminar in December, 2018. A summary was prepared by Progressive Dairyman editor Peggy Coffeen and published in the June 12, 2019 issue of that magazine (page 71).

Dr. Peek's major control points for controlling this pathogen among calves are:
  • Remove newborn calves promptly after birth.
  • Only feed pasteurized colostrum and waste milk.
  • Dedicate personnel to maintaining strick hygiene with calves. 
  • Recognize the weaning period is a high-risk time for disease transmission.
  • Discuss protocols and testing with calf and heifer raisers.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of using a specific S. Dublin vaccine with the herd veterinarian.
  • Do not power wash enclosed calf facilities.
  • Follow these protocols for disinfecting and cleaning - click below
Sanitation Link Univ. Wisc. Diag. Lab.

or paste this url in your browser

Friday, June 7, 2019

Improving Treatment Success for Sick Calves

The June 2019 issue of the calf management newsletter is now posted at www.atticacows.com, At the Resources drop-down menu click on Calf Management Newsletter.

The primary points:
·        Three tasks critical to treatment success for sick calves.
·         Preparing new employees for sick calf diagnosis and care.
·        Bring in the herd veterinarian on a regular schedule to train and retrain the calf care person(s) on diagnosis, treatment and monitoring skills.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nice Dehorning Summary from
Veterinarian's Point of View

In the Vita Plus "Starting Strong" calf publication I found this nice dehorning summary written by a dairy DVM. 

It includes good definitions of disbudding and dehorning, options for pain control, and two protocols for dehorning - one for paste and one for hot iron.

Very practical advice. Enjoy

Click HERE or paste this URL in your browser

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Another Take on Bottle vs. Tube Feeding Colostrum

Earlier work comparing two methods of feeding colostrum measured antibody levels in calf blood. They found that as long as good quality clean colostrum was fed at the rate of at least 3 quarts the feeding method did not influence the effectiveness of antibody transfer. A more detailed report of this work is available HERE or paste this URL

This research examined the rate at which the colostrum entered the abomasum. 

They examined a key factor determining antibody absorption - the rate at which the abomasum empties. They found that these two methods, tube or bottle feeding of colostrum, stimulated the same rate of abomasal emptying. Thus, we should expect the same level of immunity regardless of method of feeding.

Reference: Desjardins-Morrissette, M. and Others "The effect of tube versus bottle feeding colostrum on immunoglobulin G absorption, abomasal emplying, and plasma hormone concentrations in newborn calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:4168-4179. 2018

Friday, May 17, 2019

Managing Physical Barriers to Infection

Dr. Don Sockett (University of Wisconsin) talked about this topic at a calf/heifer conference. His challenge was to suggest on-farm ways calf managers could reduce infection rates - particularly among pre-weaned calves. 

Here is his list of management-sensitive factors:
1. Intact skin and mucous membranes
2. Normal microbial flora 
3. Fatty acids in the skin 
4. Acid in the stomach (abomasum) 
5. Hair and cilia in the nasal and respiratory tract 
6. Enzymes in saliva, tears and intestine
7. Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, urination, diarrhea

I must admit that until I heard his presentation at this conference I had never made a careful survey of what I could do as a calf manager to manage these barriers. See what you think about this.

This resource is at www.calffacts.com , scroll down to "Healthy Calves: Managing Physical Barriers to Infection.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hay: Limited or Free-Choice for Weaned Calves?

I just revised this entry in my Calf Facts resource library. [access is easy at www.calffacts.com or the URL is http://atticacows.com/library/newsletters/WeanedHeifersHayIntakeR19176.pdf

The summary points:
What do we conclude about feeding forage to weaned heifers?

  1. A limited amount of forage works well. Remember that too much forage depresses dry matter intake in these animals with small rumen capacities.

  1. Feed enough protein to take advantage of young heifers’ ability to grow rapidly. Blend high-protein pellets with hay to get no less than 16.5 percent crude protein mix.

3.     When feeding free-choice hay/grain mix, the range of 5 to 15 percent hay may be predicted to give satisfactory gains (1.9 – 2.3 pounds per day) although less hay may result in roughly 20 percent higher gains compared to the higher level.

4.     Feeding free choice hay to young heifers (seven to ten weeks of age) is very likely to result in unsatisfactory rates of gain.

The body of the entry reviews research trial results feeding various levels of protein and comparing limited and free-choice hay feeding. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rib fractures among calves

As part of a study about respiratory infections 215 female calves were examines on 3 dairies in southwestern Ontario Province, Canada. They found; 123 cases where lung consolidation had occurred. In addition they also found 14 rib fractures (7%).

While rib fractures among this population were not common, still 7 percent should be considered significant from the point of view of those 14 calves. Other work at the University of Illinois suggests that these fractures occur most commonly with difficult deliveries. 

Thus, best management  practice suggests that in cases of difficult (and, prolonged) deliveries we routinely check the rib cage for abnormalities. 

With my own calves I tagged a suspected rib-fracture calf's hutch for extra careful handling, close observation at feeding times for slow drinking and/or incomplete consumption of milk, and any symptoms of respiratory illness. 

Reference: Dunn, T.R. and Others,"The effect of lung consolidation , as determined by ultrasonography, on first lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves" Journal of Dairy Science Vol 100, Supplement 2, Abstract 192, page 194.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Rebuild of Calfnotes.com website

The May issue of the calf management newsletter describes the changes for the Calfnotes.com website. There are new categories from which to choose to find individual Calf Notes written by Dr. Jim Quigley.

This May issue is HERE or paste this URL in your browser:


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Navels: What's Normal and Abnormal?

This is the title of a new entry in the Calf Facts resource library. [www.calffacts.com]

The main points:
1. What is normal at birth for very young calves? 
2. What is abnormal at birth for very young calves? 
3. Preventing infections
4. Diagnosing and treating infections promptly. Eighty-eight percent of the navel infections from an  on-farm study were neither diagnosed nor treated by the owners!

Go to www.calffacts.com and scroll down to Navels: What's Normal and Abnormal?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Dehorning Calves
Resource Sheet with Links to Video Resource and Injection Guide

This two-page resource sheet is just up-dated to include video resources. 

The key points:

  • Earlier is better than later. When using paste try to complete the process during the first week. [video on using paste] When hot iron cauterizing 3 to 4 weeks of age is a good time.

  • Use a local anesthetic and remember that more restraint is safer for both the animal and the person than less restraint. [diagram showing appropriate blocking injection]

  • Less stress is better than more stress. Isolate dehorning from other stresses.
Click HERE to go to the resource sheet.
Or, copy this URL into your browser

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Resource Sheet for Calves

Just revised is the resource sheet on dehydration in calves in the Calf Facts calf management library. 

The key points are:
1. Why do calves get dehydrated? 
2. Preventing dehydration is more cost effective than treating it. 
  •      Reduce pathogen exposure. 
  •     Increase immunity to pathogens. 
  •     Free-choice water. 
3. Treating it requires timely measures appropriate to the degree of dehydration

Click HERE to go to the resource sheet.
or copy this URL in your browser

Friday, April 26, 2019

Adding electrolytes to milk or milk replacer

This is the title of a new Calf Note, #206 (see www.calfnotes.com/new) written by Dr. Jim Quigley.

His advice is brief and to the point:
"Don't add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. Just don't."

He describes in detail the significant changes in milk/milk replacer when we add powdered electrolytes to them. Briefly, the concept of "osmolality" is involved - he has a link to Wikapedia on this topic. I like Dr. McGuirk's discussion, click HERE and scroll to page 11. She, too, discourages us from adding powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. 

His recommendation not to add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer is based on the biology of abomasal emptying. This mistake, adding powdered electrolytes to either milk or milk replacer, under appropriate conditions can set up calves to have rapid growth of toxic bacteria in the gut. Good intentions can have bad outcomes.

In spite of the manufacturer's directions that may say their powdered electrolyte product can be added to milk/milk replacer, Dr. Quigley's advice is still,

"Don't add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. Just don't."

Monday, April 22, 2019

Rumen Development in the Transition Calf

This is the title for a webinar narrated by Dr. Jud Heinrichs (Penn State Univ.). In 54 minutes Dr. Heinrichs in straight forward language will take you on a tour of developmental biology for the young dairy calf focusing on the rumen.

You will review with text and pictures the changes that take place in the rumen wall with a focus on the first 6 weeks of life. He explores the digestion of calf starters and rumen end products. Learn what is "normal" for rumen development. View stages of growth of rumen papillae.

Dr. Heinrichs explains why monitoring calf starter intake before weaning can be an important best management practice. He says that calves need to have at least 1/2 pound [200-250g] of daily calf starter intake for 21 to 28 days before weaning to insure adequate rumen development before full weaning from milk/milk replacer.

This webinar is at
or you can try the link - click HERE 

This link takes you to Penn State's dairy website - click on "Recorded" webinars, then choose "Rumen development in the Transition Calf."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Effects of Lung Consolidation on First-Lactation Milk,
Age at First Calving and Survival

Everyone knows that having respiratory illness is not good for calves. This study followed calves into their first lactation to quantify the effects of lung consolidation [that is what happens when calves have a bad case of pneumonia] on :
  1. age at first calving
  2. survival to end of first lactation
  3. first-lactation 305-d milk production
"A total of 215 female calves from 3 dairy herds in southwestern Ontario were enrolled and assessed weekly during their first 8 weeks of life for evidence of lung consolidation  using thoracic ultrasonography." They defined positive cases when the consolidated area in the lung exceeded 3cm - think of 2 1¢ coins side-by-side.

  1. age at first calving - no effect
  2. survival to end of first lactation - no effect
  3. first lactation 305-d milk production DECREASE OF 1,155 POUNDS OR 525 kg.

Reference: Dunn, T.R. and Others, "The effect of lung consolidation, as determined by ultrasonography, on first-lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:5404-5410 (2018).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mixing Milk Replacer
Calf Management Newsletter for April, 2019

The main points covered:
  • Goal: High quality consistent milk replacer every feeding, every day.
  • The manufacturer knows best - follow these mixing instructions.
  • Caution: some printed instructions may not give desired results!
  • Make mixing easy for consistent results.
    • Have a written recipe
    • Use scales to measure milk replacer powder
    • Calibrate containers rather than guessing at water volume
    • Use a thermometer to get the right temperature mix
The newsletter is HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Milk Sampling Procedure for Valid
Bacteria Culture Results

Just revised is the bacteria quality control sampling procedure for milk/milk replacer. Click HERE for the 1 page protocol.

Also included is the sampling protocol for bacteria quality control when feeding pasteurized milk. It is a "4-sample" set that permits valid analysis of sanitation issues including the pasteurizer, transfer and feeding equipment.

Remember Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong, it will!  Quality control is a must for effective and efficient calf rearing.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Colostrum Chilling
(New pdf with pictures)

My apologies for the old version - somehow a version was posted without the two pictures. I fixed the problem and the two pictures are now posted:
1. water bath chilling method
2. immersion method. 

Click HERE for the pdf.

Assessing Calf Wellness

My associate, Noah Seward DVM, and I have been visiting calf enterprises. Our job is to assess the level of overall calf wellness for the calf enterprise. 

We are using a worksheet that scores: [worksheet is HERE]
1. Calf Health
2. Calf Housing
3. Freshening Facilities
4. Passive Transfer of Immunity
5. Colostrum Culture Results

We use Dr. McGuirk's observation protocol when assessing respiratory risk [HERE].

The observation protocol guide is HERE.

The ideal procedure for visiting is having a regular schedule of visits - every month, quarterly.Then we post the results in a spreadsheet hopefully showing improvements over time. 

For the past three years we have been supplementing this worksheet with sanitation observations using a luminometer [see HERE for luminometer resource or the URL is 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Checking Water Temperatures

I am always looking for innovative ways to accomplish simple tasks in calf enterprises. This small file of 4 pictures shows how innovative calf care folks can be. 

Click HERE to go there. The URL is 

I was especially impressed by one person that used a small square of styrofoam and a rapid read thermometer to display the temperature of her wash water as she was cleaning milk feeding equipment.

For those of  us that wear glasses (they fog up when you come into a warm room in cold weather so I take off mine when washing up) I might mention that if you use a black tag pen to mark 120 on the rapid read thermometer dial you can still see if your wash water is warm enough.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Early Signs of a Sick Calf

This is the title of an article by Sarah Morrison (The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, New York) published in their April issue of their Farm Report. 
I think if you click on this link you will get the full report and the article is on page 4. Click HERE
It may be helpful to know when reading her notes that they raise calves in hutches in a very cold northernern New York State environment just south of the US/Canadian border.

Sarah says, "Look for the signs:"
1. Slower intake
2. Refusing milk or milk replacer
3. Fecal consistency
4. Look at the eyes and skin tent test

She says,
"The goal would be to be proactive about calves that are at risk of developing dehydration."


Friday, March 29, 2019

Calf Starter Particle Size

Dr. Noah Litherland (Vita Plus company) has a good YouTube presentation on calf starter particle size. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlA50L2gmVA ] This was included in the VitaPlus Starting Strong posting dated 3/20/2019.

Main point - calves prefer eating calf starter with low fines content.

How do we create fines on farm?
His points:
  • each time we run pellets through an auger fines content may go up 2 to 5%.
  • small diameter augers cause more fines increase than larger diameter ones.
  • the steeper the incline of the auger the greater the increase in fines.
I would add one more factor - higher speed auger operation creates more fines than slower speeds. 

One operation that I worked with experienced a fines issue in grower pellet feed - observed between 10 and 15 percent. 

 Without Dr. Litherland's guidance I collected this information:
1. Pellets were transported to the dairy in one of their 10-wheeler dump trucks. Samples collected at this point had between 2 and  4 percent fines. 

2. Pellets were dumped into the same pit that handled the farm's grains - transferred to a bin by elevator - no auger.

3. Now for the good part - they were transferred out of this bin using a small diameter auger set at a very steep angle due to space limitations, very high speed to save time filling the two-wheel grain cart used for supplying the self feeders at heifer barn.

4. This grain cart used an auger at the bottom to deliver pellets to the back of the cart where another vertical auger delivered the grain to the self feeders.

5. The staff person at the heifer barn refilled the self feeders from this two-wheel grain cart two times a week. He was observed running the PTO for the grain cart with the tractor engine at nearly full speed - to minimize time filling self feeders. 

6. A sample collected from this discharge auger was found to have between 10 and 15 percent fines. This may be compared to a sample checked as the pellets arrived at the farm less than 4 percent fines.

The dairy was very effective in creating fines.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

How much milk with calves drink when 
offered free-choice (ad libitum)

How much milk with calves drink when offered free-choice or ad libitum?

This resource at www.calffacts.com describes the changes over the first 35 days of life.

Key points:

  • When milk intake is not restricted expect calves to drink large amounts of milk. 
  •  Expect large variations among calves in milk consumption. 
  •  Expect significant changes in levels of milk intake from week-to-week. 
  •  In environments with significant parasite exposure, appetites tend to be depressed during infections. 
  •  Expressed as a percentage of live weight, milk consumption tends to go down as dairy heifer calves with free-choice milk, water and concentrate get past about three weeks of age
Link is HERE or url is 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Testing for Passive Transfer of Immunity

There is a resource on testing for passive immunity at www.calffacts.com that includes these topics:

1. How to test for immunity levels
2. Why is passive transfer of immunity important?
3. How can I test for the rate of passive transfer of immunity?
4. Sampling at the proper time and age for reliability.
5. Collecting the blood sample.
6. Handling the blood sample carefully.
7. Separating serum from red blood cells.
8. Using the refractometer.
9. What do the values mean?
10. What BSTP (blood serum total protein) goals should a farm have?
11. What do BSTP values mean for newborn management?

The URL is

or try this link  click HERE for testing for passive transfer

Friday, March 22, 2019

Starter grain intake among intensive milk-fed calves

As part of an experimental design testing fat levels  in calf starter grains intakes were collected on regular 18% c.p. starter. The calves were fed a 23-19 milk replacer  at the rates of :
     Week 1 = 6.3 qts/day @ 12.5% solids or 1.6# of powder
     Weeks 2-7 = 6.3 qts/day @ 15% solids or 2# of powder
     Week 8 = one-half of previous week or 1# of powder daily
All calves had free-choice water, calf starter and chopped straw.

Some of the calves were fed conventional starter grain. So, looking at just these calves what did they find?

What about calf starter intake? (average pounds per day) (volume estimates based on 1 quart equals roughly one pound)

Week one = almost none
Week two = just more than none
Week three = 0.2#/day or 0.8 cups - small handful
Week four = 0.4#/day or 1.6 cups
Week five = 0.8#/day or between 3 and 4 cups
Week six = 1.2#/day or well over 1 quart
Week seven = 1.8#/day or nearly  2 quarts
Week eight (on half milk ration this week) = 3.3# or over 3 quarts
Then, 4 weeks after weaning:
Week 12  (no hay, grain only) = just over 8#/day

What does this tell us about rumen development?
1. By 28 days calves were consuming enough grain to begin the rumen development process. We can begin counting the 21 days required for enough papillae development to support maintenance and growth.

2. By 42 days (week 6) calves are starting to eat enough starter grain to significantly supplement their milk ration. Rumen development is progressing well and lots of fermentation-based protein is supplementing the milk proteins.

3. At 49 days milk is cut to one-half per day - now, the calves need lots of energy and protein from grain. It has been 21 days since significant starter intake began - plenty of papillae surface now present to absorb the energy needed for growth.

4. By 56-60 days the calf is beginning to eat enough grain to support maintenance and between one and two pounds of growth per day. As long as she does not over-eat on hay this ration will soon support 2 to 2.5#/day growth.

5. They followed these calves out to 12 weeks of age - by then they were eating an average of 8+ pounds of starter grain per day (enough to support around 2.5#/day gain).

If I had a preference on the weaning for calves like this I would have set up the one-half milk ration to extend for 10 to 14 days rather than just 7 days. In an ideal situation maybe the 7 day period would work well - but remember Murphy's Law [If any can go wrong, it well], the longer step-down interval accommodates the wide variation among calves in rumen development rates so we get a more uniform accommodation to full weaning.

Reference: Berends, H. and Others "Effect of fat inclusion on starter feeds for dairy calves by mixing increasing levels of a high-fat extruded pellet with a conventional highly fermentable pellet." Journal of Dairy Science 101:10962-10972 (December, 2018).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Once-A-Day Milk Feeding for Calves:
Good Gains under Certain Conditions

A research team at Penn State University set up a milk feeding trial to compare once-a-day vs. twice-a-day milk feeding. A good colostrum management program resulting in average blood serum total protein average values of 6.0 fo calves in both feeding treatments. All calves had free-choice access to both water and calf starter grain. This was a small trial with 48 calves - 24 at 2X and 24 at 1X feeding.

On days 1-7 all the calves received two equal feedings a day for a total of 6.3 quarts (6 liters).
Starting on day 7 one-half of the calves continued on this twice-a-day feeding program.
Starting on day 7 one-half of the calves were changed to one milk feeding in the morning of 6.3 quarts.

Results? There was a small trend for 1X calves to gain a bit more than the 2X calves - that is, 3.5 pounds total gain more measured at 42 days of age. 

Authors conclusion was that under these conditions [(1) fed pasteurized whole milk  and (2) maximum volume of milk 6.3 quarts a day] both feeding programs were equally effective.

My conclusions are:
1. under this condition - a milk source where the protein source is primarily casein (NOT milk replacer where the protein is primarily whey protein) and milk is limited to 6.3 quarts daily - this is important because the casein curds that form in the abomasum will be slowly broken down by enzymes and released gradually into the small intestine. In comparison, directly after feeding all the whey protein floods into the small intestine - this raises the question for me about the availability of protein and energy over the 24-hour feeding period. 

2. under this condition - this volume of milk (6.3 qts) is estimated for a 95lb. calf to support 1.4 pounds average daily gain under no temperature stress (60 F and higher). At moderate temperature stress (40F) this projected gain drops to 1.3 and at  winter temperature stress (20F) estimated gain drops to 1.0 pounds per day. The growth-limiting nutrient here is energy, not protein.

If these calves are going to double their weight in 2 months (56 days) they need to average 1.7 pounds daily gain. Six quarts of milk, especially in cold weather, are not going to provide enough energy for this gain. 

Overall, if the dairy's calf rearing goals are solely to keep the calves alive and moderately healthy through the milk feeding phase with limited growth until their rumen develops enough for them to live on a grain mix, then a once-a-day milk (not milk replacer) feeding program will work about as well as a twice-a-day feeding program under conditions of limited environmental stress.

Reference: Saldana, D. J., C. M. Jones, A.M. Gehman and A. J. Heinrichs "Effects of once- versus twice-a-day feeding of pasteurized milk supplemented with yeast-derived feed additives on growth and health in female dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 102:3654-3660 April 2019.