Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where to Start?
Situation: Large dairy, calves not dying but calves do not look thrifty.
Recommendation: Let's draw blood on the calves between 1 and 7 days and see what blood serum total proteins (BSTP) look like. Maybe there is an issue with the amount of antibodies circulating in the calves' blood. 
Results: Two-thirds of the  BSTP values are below 5.0. Hmmmm. Our most liberal threshold for these values is 80% above 5.0. Half of those low values are 4.0 and below.
Where to start? 
Begin keeping a record of colostrum feeding. This is the first step in accountability. The sheet may look like this:
Calf           Hour        Hour       Volume 1st          Person
Number     Born        1st Fdg    Fdg consumed       Feeding
The farm needs to set its own goals for timeliness of feeding. A good starting place here might be 80% within the first 4 hours. 
It might be a good idea to check with calf care persons to see how confident they feel using an esophageal tube feeder with calves that either are reluctant to drink or hard-delivery calves that cannot drink. For a teaching outline for instructing workers to use a tube feeder Click Here.
Now, before you jump ahead and suggest that the farm adopt the standard of feeding 4 quarts of colostrum within this 4 hours think of the consequences if the colostrum has a high bacteria count. No current information is available on colostrum bacteria counts. Rushing in and increasing the volume of colostrum fed might not be in the best interests of the calves.
A second step here might be to collect "as-fed" samples of colostrum and have them cultured. Ask for both how many (quantification) and which kinds (speciation). For a sampling procedure Click Here.

Depending on the results from the lab steps may be needed to reduce the bacteria load in the colostrum; or, maybe not.
A third step here might be to locate either a Brix refractometer or Colostrometer and begin checking colostrum quality; that is, the concentration of antibodies.

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