Saturday, February 2, 2013

A calf with low immunity

Here is today's question from a dairyman in Italy:

"I'm starting to test with the refractometer the claves after birth when I find a low level there's something I can do to the calves for help them?"
Here's today's answer:
  • For the individual calf with average cash value with a low BSTP reading (already several days old) there is nothing practical that can be done. If the calf is worth $1,000's, yes IV antibody serum could be used, but for the average calf the game is over, done. 
  • With my own calves I bled all the calves. And, for BSTP values less than 5.0 I always marked both the calf and her hutch. A tail crayon marker on her forehead and red clip-on cow tag at the front of her individual hutch. That reminded me and everyone else that provided care that she was very vulnerable to clinical infections.
  • Every time she was fed (milk, water, grain) and bedded she received a thorough visual examination. If she stuttered (a little slow getting up at feeding time, slow in drinking her milk) I would check her out after I finished caring for the other calves. 
  • The herd veterinarian had prescribed a special treatment protocol for these low BSTP calves that we tried to follow without exception.
  • I fed these vulnerable heifers to appetite - as much as they wanted to drink at each feeding - I know this was extra work at feeding time but overall it was less work that having them get sick. I felt that the extra energy and protein helped them mature their own immunity more rapidly than if I limited their intake. 
So, the bottom line is keep track of these vulnerable girls and be prepared to step in to keep them healthy.

Just a technical note here - Individual BSTP values can be vulnerable to mis-interpretation. BSTP values are best interpreted on a group basis - for example, 10 or 12 at one time - that will give a "herd" profile of what the colostrum management program is accomplishing.

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