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 , 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 or the URL is

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 website

The May issue of the calf management newsletter describes the changes for the 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. []

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 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 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. [ ] 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 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 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.

Genomic evaluation for calf wellness traits in Holstein cattle

Here is the summary statement by the authors:

"The results [of this study] indicate direct evaluation of calf wellness traits under a genomic threshold model is feasible and offers predictions with average reliabilities comparable to other lowly heritable traits."

Well, it sounds like although heritability for calf wellness is on the low side it is measurable.

Let's keep this idea in the back of our minds as a possible management tool in the coming decade.

Reference: Gonzalez-Pena, D. and Others "Genomic evaluation for calf wellness traits in Holstein cattle." Journal of Dairy Science 102:2319-2329

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Do antibiotic residues in milk effect dairy calves?

The three characteristic studied in this work were:
  1. growth
  2. ruminal fermentation
  3. microbial community
Calves were studied up to 35 days of age. Half of them receive antibiotic- free milk [FREE] while the other half received milk with antibiotics added to simulate residues [ANT].

No differences in:
(1) starter intake,
(2) body weight,
(3) withers height,
(4) body length,
(5)  heart girth, and
(6) average daily gain. 

In the rumen the ANT calves had a higher acetic acid concentration (probably tied to antibiotics changing the microbial profile). Certain papillae were longer in the ANT group compared to the FREE calves. 

There were very few effects on the overall microbial communities in the rumen.

So, until we get more information I am not going to worry too much about low levels of antibiotic residues in waste milk fed to calves.

Reference: Li, J.H. and Others, "Effect of antibiotic residues in milk on growth, ruminal fermentation, and microbial community of preweaning dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science, 102:2298-2307

Monday, March 4, 2019

Hard Calving: Impact on Calves

The March 2019 issue of the calf management newsletter, "Hard Calving: Impact on Calves," is now posted at the website.

The key points: 
·        Stress at calving: impact on calves
·        Managing stress at calving: importance of timely intervention
·        Managing stress at calving: matching intervention technique to cause of dystocia
·        Managing pathogen exposure

The url is


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Energy in Calf Starter Grain

Recently reported research (Quigley, J.D. and Others, "Estimates of calf starter energy affected by consumption of nutrients, 2. Effect of changing digestion on energy content in calf starters." Journal of Dairy Science 102:2242-2253 March 2019) suggest a caution for those of  us using the NRC 2001 standards for estimating gains for calf rations. 

Quigley and others suggest that "current estimates of energy in calf starters fed to 4 month of age may overestimate contribution of dry feed to overall energy metabolism in young calves." p2242.

I read this as cautioning us to take the gain estimates with a bit of caution [sometimes phrased, "with a grain of salt] when including significant amounts of calf starter grain in the ration.

We all look forward to the publication of new standards.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Effect of Heat Treating Colostrum

The research team at Penn State University compared the effects of heat treating colostrum using three qualities of colostrum (high 98g/L IgG's, medium 66g/L, low 52g/L). Note that even their lowest quality was above the industry standard of 50g/L for "adequate" colostrum quality. 

They varied the heat treatment time - one half was heat-treated for 30 minutes at 60C while the other half was heat-treated for 60 minutes. 

Heat treating decreased IgG concentrations but only by a small percentage. An average of 9 percent loss was present when heat-treated for 30 minutes and average loss of 12 percent when heat-treated for 60 minutes. Thus, even when these losses were subtracted from medium and high quality colostrum their values were well above the 50g/L industry threshold. 

Heat treating significantly decreased the bacteria both at 30 and 60 minutes of treatment with the longer treatment eliminating nearly all the bacteria. 

Further, heat-treating significantly improved the transfer rate of antibodies into the calves blood. 

Now. they also confirmed that as colostrum quality went up the total number of antibodies in calves went up - feed more, and more end up in the blood. [By the way, they fed 4 quarts to these calves within 60 to 90 minutes after birth.]

So, feeding high quality colostrum in significant volume shortly after birth actually works! Now, at the same time the percentage of antibodies fed compared to the volume that make it into the blood does take a hit with lots of high quality colostrum. The efficiency of absorption does go down when the gut is flooded with a bizzion (is that a number?) IgG's. 

From a practical point of view, I am aiming for the highest IgG level practical calf side on farm. The IgG's not absorbed can be high quality protein for the calf to digest.

Reference: Saldana. D.J., and Others "Effect of different heating times of high-, medium, and low-quality colostrum on immunoglobulin G absorption in dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 102:23068-2074 March 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Calf Health: The Futile Search for the Silver Bullet

The February issue of the calf management newsletter focuses on best management practices. 
The summary points are:
·        Calf health goals
·        The futile search for THE cause of illness
·        Observing the “critical control points” for immunity
·        Observing the “critical control points” for pathogen exposure
·   “Ducks in a Row” management vs. the “silver bullet” to solve health problems
The url is


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Calf and Heifer Management
Online Course

Cornell ProDairy program announced an online course to run from March 29 through May 17, 2019.

The topics:
  • Calf nutrition Pre-weaning
  • Calf nutrition Post-weaning
  • Replacement economics
  • Colostrum management
  • Inventory management
  • Genetics
  • Calf health
  • Housing
Instructors include Mike Van Amburgh, Heather Huson, Curt Gooch, Jason Karszes, Rob Lynch, Kim Morrill and Margaret Quaassdorff.

Registration: $25 discount if register before March 11. Total cost $265 per person.

Full course information is at courses
click HERE or paste this url in your browser

links at the bottom of the page will give you more information on
  • Instructors
  • Technology requirements
  • Registration

Thursday, February 7, 2019

First 24 Hours - Getting it Right

I am giving a lecture on Friday, February 8th, for a class at SUNY Morrisville - a 2-year dairy program. The course, Heifer Management, has one week devoted to the young dairy calf.

My title is "First 24 Hours - Getting it Right."

A summary is:
1. The first 2  minutes - breathe
2. The first 10-30 minutes - adapting to the new environment
3. Managing Colostrum - the 5 "Q's"
  • Quickly
  • Quantity
  • Quality
  • Quantify (BSTP)
  • sQueaky clean
A copy of the powerpoint [English only] is available by sending an e-mail to - type First 24 Hours in the subject line of the e-mail.
Cold Weather Feeding Tips

Maureen Hanson has done a good job summarizing ideas for cold weather feeding for milk-fed calves. Her five main points:
1. Feeding delivery
2. Ration formulation and osmolality
3. Water
4. Mixing consistency
5. Feeding temperature

This review is at: 

or you can try 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Beware of Cold Milk Replacer Powder!

Back in November, 2018, we had a local "cold snap." The outdoor temperatures dropped around 20F and just stayed there for over a week with little change during daytime hours. Now in January it was 0F when I left the house this morning. Cold is here to stay for a while.

Let's assume you observe milk replacer mixing on a dairy. The calf care person leaves the warm utility room and comes back with a 50 pound (22.7kg) bag of milk replacer powder. She proceeds to open the bag and scoop about two-thirds of it into the mixing barrel that was about one-third full of warm water.

She blends the powder and adds enough water to fill the 30 gallon (114L) barrel. Without using a thermometer it would be easy for you to feel that the mix does not feel warm enough (should be at least 105F) to feed calves on a cold day. Using a thermometer you might discover that the mix to be about 95F.

She had followed her "usual" mixing procedures that result in 105F mix. What happened that caused the mix temperature to be only 95F?

The milk replacer powder was stored in a cold shed, think well below freezing. The cold powder dropped the usual mix temperature about 10F.

The lesson here is test, don't guess. Beware of cold milk replacer powder during winter months - extra caution may be needed to have our mix at correct feeding temperature.

Sam has been Away!

Every year I volunteer to help senior citizens prepare their income tax returns - both federal and state. This requires a two-week long workshop on tax regulations and using computer programs to prepare the returns. That was January 14-25 this year. It was a "taxing" time" and I am now certified as an AARP volunteer tax aide. 

Sam's back. Enjoy the new posts.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Challenges of Very, Very Cold Weather

During very cold situations (wind chills around 10F or -12C)) when feeding in outdoor calf hutches I found that in order to feed 105F(41C) milk replacer mix (I was feeding about 90 (340L) gallons of milk mixed in three 30-gallon (114L) barrels) I could not mix all three barrels at one time. If I mixed all three barrels at once and took them outside the last calves fed received about 70F (21C) milk.

In order to avoid feeding cold milk I had to mix just one barrel at a time. I would mix one barrel, go outdoors and feed it. 

Then, come back inside the utility barn, mix another barrel and feed that and repeat for the third barrel.

On days like this I fed water as soon after milk replacer feeding as practical - about 5 or 10 minutes.  The calves were usually still standing up. Amount warm water fed? With some practice I could guess at an amount of water close to consumption - only a quart (.9L) for young calves and proportionally  more for older ones. At the end of the milk/water feeding routine I went back through and dumped any water that the calves did not drink.

As you might suspect, I really did not look forward to feeding milk in these very frigid conditions. The calves? When fed enough they stay healthy and grow beautifully in a clean dry hutch even in frigid conditions.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

What to do about Scours

What to do about Scours is the title of the January 2019 calf management newsletter. To go to the newsletter click HERE or the URL is 

The main headings are:
  •  How “Normal” are scours (diarrhea) in young calves?
  • The pathogen vs. immunity balance predicts scours treatment rates.
  • What are some low-cost practices that predict lower scours treatment rates?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Large Variation in Starter Intake Observed

 Calf starter intake data were collected from 4,534 Holstein heifer calves at a Minnesota research facility. 

Two observations were of interest to me. 

One, there was a wide variation among calves in the amount of calf starter grain consumed in spite of the fact that they were all fed the same calf starter, the same amount of milk replacer and raised in the same environmental conditions (weather, air quality, barns, bedding, water availability and so on). 

During week six (weaned at 42 days) the average calf starter grain intake (sum of intake for 7 days) was 39 pounds (about 5.5 pounds per day). That is quite a respectable level of consumption.

However, the standard deviation was 17 pounds! Or, if we look at the population of 4,534 calves roughly 2/3rds of them had intakes between 22 and 56 pounds (between 3 and 8 pounds daily).

Calf management implications? The big eaters usually do fine - they sail through a change in housing (individual pens to group pack pens) and keep growing at a rapid rate.

But, what about the "picky" eaters? The ones that get to 49 days and are still only consuming 2 or 3 pounds of grain a day?

I had a "left-back" management program. These picky eaters were "left-back" in the individual housing for an extra week or even two before going to group housing. There was extra labor to keep them in the individual housing for one or two extra weeks but I considered that well worth the time not spent on treating sick heifers in the transition pens. I made this program work by marking the pens of the "picky" eaters so we could monitor their grain intakes - roughly five percent of my calves.

Second observation.

Their data showed a distinct seasonal effect on calf stater grain intake rates. Grain intakes were significantly higher for calves born in the fall and winter compared to spring and summer. It was nice to know that their experience was the same as mine.

 I was frustrated with the same effect with my own calves. I fussed and fussed with changing the grain in pails, made sure the calves had plenty of free-choice water from June through September (I was in a western New York State climate) with limited success - once the weather got hot grain intakes fell significantly below those during the cold weather months. The percentage of calves that had to spend an extra week or two in the individual housing always went up during the summer. Year after year, during hot weather the winter-time 56-day average daily gains dropped from over 2 pounds daily to 1.7-1.9 pounds per day.

Reference: Rauba, J. and Others, "Relationships between protein and energy consumed from milk replacer and starter and calf growth and first-lactation production of Holstein dairy cows." Journal of Dairy Science 102:301-310. January, 2019.