Thursday, May 30, 2013

Energy in Colostrum
I heard a presentation today (May 29, 2013) that contained information on hours of energy contained in 4 quarts of colostrum.
Here are the data:
                                                       Environmental conditions of the calf
                                     About 60F   About 52F    About 43F    About 34F
Grams of Fat
Needed per hour                 8.2              9.9               11.6              13.4

Hours of Energy
4 Qt. Colostrum                  9.2              7.7                 6.5                5.6
First, notice how rapidly the grams of fat needed per hour for maintaining core body temperature goes up as temperatures go down.

So, at 60F and above 4 quarts of colostrum will supply plenty of energy for maintenance for 9.2 hours. This is above and beyond the small amount of energy from stored fat in the newborn calf.

Let's look, however, at the near freezing environment - see 34F above. The energy from 4 quarts of colostrum will only last less than 6 hours. Then the calf begins to draw on body reserves (they are quite limited). 

What can we do to help these calves? 
  • Feed more colostrum during the first 48 hours.
  • Even we don't have any colostrum to feed, try feeding warm whole milk - it is much higher in energy than most milk replacers.
We do need to be aware that it is easy for newborn calves to run out of energy very quickly.

As temperatures

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Discover Conference
I am attending the ADSA Discover conference on the development of feeding and management of dairy calves for growth, health and later performance.
Last evening Dr. Amelia Woolums, University of Georgia, commented on vaccinating young calves. I captured her point about the large metabolic demands that result from vaccinating.
She pointed out that when the vaccine works properly huge amounts of both protein and energy are diverted from growth. These resources are used to make the new cells that are stimulated by the vaccine.
Depending on the demands of the environment for maintaining core body temperature and the level of feeding energy newly vaccinated calves can go into negative energy balance. That is, they begin to use energy from their body to maintain themselves and respond to the vaccine.
If the shortage of energy is severe enough the calves may even become ill - most likely with a respiratory infection.
She was reminding us that we need to have well-fed calves with ample energy supplies (usually in young calves coming from milk) if we are going to avoid the negative consequences of vaccinating.
This is something to think about when either very hot or cold weather places high energy demands on our young calves - do we have enough surplus energy in the ration to not only respond successfully to the vaccination but also to support both routine maintenance and good growth of the calves? 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Italy, 2nd day, May 23, 2013
What a nice evening on the 22nd eating pizza with old friends from Cremona. On to the on-farm seminar on Thursday with a focus on the young calf (birth - 4 months). 
Again a large dairy milking over 600 cows with high production. The group of 30-plus farmers had larger farms  - my best guess is the range was from a low as 100 or so to over 1,000. A very open group with just one question after another as we moved from calving pen to milk fed calves to transition heifers. 
Limited feeding of colostrum when the fresh cows were milked twice daily. No checking for bacteria in colostrum and no use of blood serum total protein for monitoring success of colostrum management program. Lots of discussion of the value of both of these practices. 
Calves are raised in elevated crates for eight weeks (plus or minus depending on calving pressures). They are fed 2 litres of milk replacer mixed at 125g/L twice daily (just over one pound of powder a day) for the first seven weeks.  We talked some that this point about the advantages of feeding at higher rates during the first four or five weeks of age. Also had a good discussion about 1X, 2X and 3X feedings - advantages and disadvantages of these feeding systems. 

Ad lib water is provided and calf starter grain is fed ad lib until they reach a maximum of 1.2kg per day (about 2.6 pounds). Then milk feeding is abruptly ended for all calves eating at least 2.2 pounds of grain daily. Calves remain in the pens for one more week on maximum of 2.6 pounds of grain and ad lib water.
Calves go from individual pens into group straw-bedded pens in groups of about ten. They are abruptly changed to a TMR consisting of chopped hay and a protein pellet. I forgot to ask about frequency of feeding - if I had to guess it would be two or three times a week. 
 I asked about health and gains among calves during week eight in the individual pens - no information on gains but calves were said to be strong and healthy. I asked about the health and growth in this first group pen. Calves "stand still, no growth" and many are treated for pneumonia. A number of other farmers echoed the same situation - grow well when on milk/grain ration and slump in the first transition pen. 
We had quite a discussion about rumen development and the processes the calves go through to adapt to a ration made up primarily of roughage compared to one exclusively concentrates. I think the farm will change to feeding ad lib concentrates in the individual pens and then continue that for the first week or two in the group pen. I suggested adding a handful of the TMR to the grain feeder for the last week the calves were in the individual pens. Then for the first week in the group pens feed  just enough of the chopped hay on top of the pelleted grain that the calves would clean up the hay in one hour. The second week feed twice as much hay. The goal was to gradually introduce the roughage rather than go ad lib in one day. 
Several farmers said they were adding small amounts of chopped hay to all the calf starter mix that calves received from day 2 at their farms - they did not feel they had the problems with ad lib hay feeding to transition heifers experienced on this farm. 
The farm visit was followed up at a nearby trattoria or tavern. We did a quick review of the colostrum management principles. Then, a hearty lunch. A regional dish of rice and local sausage, spiced pears, local hard cheese, wonderful bread, and a local wine. 

Off to Milan for a short night and a 5:00 am departure for Frankfurt, JFK and home. 
Italy, May 22, 2013
My flight was to Milan in northern Italy where nearly one-half of all the milk in Italy is produced. The actual city was Cremona, south of Milan on the Po River. Really old city founded by Romans before 200 BC. Lots of large flat fields, much of this land is irrigated from snow-melt water from the Alps. 
Our first farm to visit was milking over 600 cows (large but not unusual for the Cremona area). This was one of the top genetics herds in Italy. We met with both the calf care person and the herd veterinarian. They were starting calves out on 2 litres of freshly-collected colostrum. This means that colostrum was fed twice a day when fresh cows were milked. 

The farm did not check for bacteria in colostrum even though a central lab was located nearby. Blood serum total protein to check on the colostrum management program had not been done in the past year.

They were housed for the first two weeks in elevated crates or pens. They were limit-fed milk replacer (2 litres mixed at 125g/L twice daily = just over one pound of powder a day), no water or concentrate.

Calves moved from crates to group straw-bedded pens around 2 weeks depending on calving pressure. They switched to pasteurized waste milk fed in troughs at the rate of 4 litres a day. Each pen had enough trough space for all calves to eat at one time. The pens also had long troughs full of what appeared to hay - I was told it was a TMR (chopped hay with protein pellet mixed in - today I could not find any pellets - they feed TMR twice a week).

I could not see that there was a lot of growth until 5 or 6 weeks of age. There was an increasing difference among calves as we went from 3 weeks to 8 weeks - smaller ones fell farther behind and larger ones surged farther ahead. 

Our second farm was a bit smaller but also had very elite genetics. We found a very similar colostrum management system - delayed milking of fresh cows, delayed feeding of colostrum, no checking of colostrum quality,  limited colostrum feeding, no checking on bacteria in colostrum and not blood serum total protein testing. 

Our third farm was milking about 250 cows. Their colostrum program was to feed 2 litres when the fresh cows were milked twice a day. The calves were housed in elevated crates for the first 8 weeks. The milk replacer feeding program provided a little over one pound of powder per day. This farm was having difficulty getting calves to consume very much of the calf starter grain. As I walked the calves in late afternoon (around 6:00 pm) the calves had not had their afternoon feeding. None of the buckets contained water - yet the owner said that was where the water was fed. Although the feeder was providing water he was making sure that there was no water to dump when it came time for the next feeding of milk. Amazing how a little thing like limiting water can suppress grain intakes - the 6 and 7 week old calves were eating less than one pound of grain a day!

What a challenging day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Germany, May 21, 2013
 The travel from Poland on May 20 gave me an opportunity to see the large relatively flat fields in northern Germany. Many fields of rape were in full blossom - quite a site of bright yellow in contrast to the green countryside. 

Our goal was the city of Muenster located in the northern part of the North Rhine - Westphalia region of Germany (borders on Netherlands). We met in a rural area close to a large German dairy that agreed to let us tour their facility after lunch on the 21st. 

The ten Alta Genetics staff attending the seminar on young calf management represented nearly as many countries. The English-language seminar this day allowed extra time for discussion that we did not have in Poland on Monday due to translation time. 

The staff represented clients from under 100 cows to farms in the 1,000's of cows. Some were state-owned while others were owned privately. The only commonality was the challenge in keeping calves alive and healthy while growing well.

Our afternoon farm tour took us to a well-managed German dairy - I cannot remember the exact number of cows but close to 500-600. Calves here were fed 2 litres of colostrum twice-a-day at milking time when colostrum was collected from the fresh cows (note here that some cows waited over 12 hours for this first milking). 

Calves were housed in outdoor elevated pens for the first couple of weeks. They were fed  a pound of milk replacer powder a day, free-choice water and a handful of a TMR made up of chopped hay and a protein pellet.  Milk replacer was fed with nipple pails that were washed only for a new calf. Then they went into group  bedded-pack pens inside a large barn. They changed to waste milk fed at a higher rate (I think it was about 6 litres per day) and the same TMR mix until roughly 10 to 12 weeks. My perception was that the calves pretty well stood still for the first three weeks and then as they received more energy through milk they began to grow more rapidly. After they had enough rumen development to benefit from the TMR they did even better. At 3 months they looked quite good.
At that time they transitioned to a larger group with free stalls. This last facility had a major challenge in terms of air quality. I think I understood that this was the focus of many treatment for pneumonia cases.

This farm did not monitor bacteria counts in colostrum. Once in the past year they worked with a research project that measured blood serum total protein values - from my perspective they had an unacceptably high passive transfer failure rate but the owner was not inclined to make any changes in the colostrum feeding management as a result of those results. Maybe our visit might encourage him to consider checking for bacteria and increasing the colostrum feeding rate?

On to Italy for a day of visiting farm and the next day another seminar.
Poland May 20, 2013
Had a great time in Poland if only for 1.5 days. I flew from Munich to Poznan on May 19. If you try to find Poznan on a map it is on the Warte River in west-central Poland - a city of about 1/2 million.

My host and I drove to a meeting place about an hour from the airport - a huge old residence that had been restored since the end of the communist era. Great Polish food and a chance to visit with folks that came in early for the meeting the next day.

Thirty-two folks for the seminar on young calf management. Twenty-four farmers and eight Alta-Genetics employees made up the group. Farm sizes represent ranged from a low of 50 to a high of 1,100 cows. Many farms in the 300-700 range. 

As we reviewed aspects of newborn care and colostrum management I found the questions to be quite similar to the ones at my seminars in UK in March this year. Must be that calves are calves regardless where they are. 

The most common feeding volume for colostrum among those present was 2 litres. One or two measured colostrum quality with a Colostrometer. We had a very large range of times for first feeding of colostrum from one hour to over 18 hours. I hope after our session and the exercises that we did together to learn how "Sooner is always better" for feeding colostrum the participants will go home more convinced that it is better for calves to feed colostrum sooner after birth. 

None of those present were checking colostrum for bacteria. We did discuss this - how to take and handle samples, where in this region of Poland they could be submitted for culturing and how to interpret the results. Several of those present (actually veterinarians from large farms) had used blood serum total protein testing to assess the effectiveness of the colostrum management program. For the balance of the other farms this was new information - I was questioned quite carefully about these process so I hope some farms will make the commitment to do this in 2013.

Finished the seminar with a wonderful meal and then off for a 600km trip to the next meeting site in Germany.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How reliable is your refrigerator?
Why is refrigerator reliability a significant question? Storage of animal biological products, especially vaccines, should be in the range of 36 to 45F. The leading cause of immune response failure is vaccines that are improperly stored (Torell, R  "Back to basics:Frozen Vaccine", 2006)
A study of 129 farm refrigerators found that only 1/3 of them maintained the recommended temperature (36-45F) 95 percent of the time (T.E. Fife and Others, "Case Study: Handling and management of animal health products by Idaho producers and retailers." Professional Animal Scientist 29 (June, 2013) 313-320).

Fully 1/3 of farm refrigerators maintained the recommended temperature less than 5 percent of the time!
Part of the issue may very well be the age of these refrigerators. In this study 57 percent of them were over 10 years old. Over 15 years old - 34 percent - really old. When Mom got a new one for the kitchen the used one went to the barn?
Recommendations from the study:
  • Monitor refrigerator performance with a thermometer - one that can be seen easily when moving products into or out of the refrigerator.
  • Min-max thermometers give very useful information, especially for monitoring unusual events that may freeze vaccines.
  • Full-size refrigerators are preferred compared to mini or dormitory-type units for maintaining more uniform temperatures.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When to feed water after feeding milk
A client question was about how long to wait after feeding whole pasteurized milk  to feed water. The data were pretty thin but the calf care person observed that "some calves were drinking 4 to 5 quarts of water as soon as the water was fed." Neither the age of the calves was specified nor what proportion of the calves were the big drinkers.

  • Milk goes into the abomasum.
  • Milk in the abomasum mixes with enzymes and acids. Within a few minutes casein protein reacts with rennet to form curds. Whey can move on to the small intestine.
  • Water goes into the rumen and then progresses through the digestive system.
  • At birth the rumen volume  is likely to be less than 1 liter.
  • By 3 weeks rumen volume has been measured at roughly 3 liters.
  • Given another week or two we may estimate rumen volume approaching 4 liters.
So, will water drinking change the digestion of the milk?

In my experience caring for calves the "big" drinkers generally did not include the youngest calves - less than three weeks old. Further, only a small percentage of calves were "big" drinkers - somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of calves between three and six weeks of age.Thus the practical significance of the question is somewhat limited - not very many calves are involved.

If most of these "big" drinkers are 4 to 5 weeks old the rumen volume is great enough to hold most of the water they are drinking. If the water is in the rumen it cannot have any effect on milk digestion.

From a practical point of view I like to see us feed water while the calves are still standing up from the milk feeding. If the farm routine makes it convenient to feed water 10 to 15 minutes after feeding milk I recommend staying with the present routine.

 The goal is to get calves to drink water since water consumption drives calf starter grain intake. Given our goal of efficient fermentation of grain we recall that for every pound of grain eaten the calves will need four pounds (2 quarts) of water.

For the scientists readers, I cannot recall a single research report that examined the consequences of feeding water at different intervals post-milk feeding at varying water temperatures under given environmental conditions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

34% Passive Transfer Failure
Yes, 34 percent passive transfer failure among 882 calves from 49 farms in the state of Washington. 
This study, completed in 2010, reported wide variation among farms. Of the 18 calves that were sampled on each of the 49 farms, 2 farms had no calves below 5.2g/dL blood serum total protein. In contrast 7 farms had 13 or more calves out of the 18 calves sampled (>70%) with passive transfer failure.
Only 36 percent of the farms had 20 percent or fewer calves with passive transfer failure. The industry standard for profitable calf survival and health is 90% above 5.0g/dL and 75% at 5.5g/dL and greater.
Colostrum management practices associated with high rates of passive transfer failure in this Washington State study were:
  • Who collected the colostrum - passive transfer failure was 3.7 times greater if a regular milker collected the colostrum compared to other personnel.
  • Evaluating colostrum quality - passive transfer failure was 2.3 times greater if the colostrum was NOT evaluated for antibody concentration.
  • Adding supplements to the colostrum - passive transfer failure was 8.9 times greater if a supplement was added to the colostrum.
 No data were reported regarding the species and quantity of bacteria present in the colostrum   
Reference:  WSU Vet Med Newsletter    

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Managing Milk Replacer Feeding to Encourage Starter Intake
Weaning intensively-fed calves takes more managment skills than when feeding survival levels of milk or milk replacer. Calves need to increase their intake of calf starter grain enough to support maintenance and growth needs before milk is withdrawn if a smooth transition to the grain-water ration is going to take place.
This principle was tested in another feeding trial with dairy calves.  [Ballou, M.A. and Others, " Breed and plane of milk-replacer nutrition influences the performance of per-and postweaned dairy calves." Professional Animal Scientist 29:116-123 (2013).

Both Holstein and Jersey calves were used in the trial. Control calves were compared to intensive fed calves. 
Control calves were fed 1 pound of powder per day of 21-21 milk replacer. High-feed calves were fed: Holsteins 2.5 pounds of 29-21 powder per day and Jerseys  1.5 pounds of 29-26 powder per day.
The weaning program?
"On day 42 of the study period, the calves were only fed their MR once daily in the a.m. to encourage starter consumption. When calves were consuming at least 900 g as fed of calf starter for 2 consecutive days, the calf was completely weaned off MR." (p117)
The 1#MR/day Holstein calves on day 42 were eating about 1# of starter daily. This in contrast to the 2.5#MR/day calves the were eating only 1/3 as much
The 1#MR/day calves got cut back to 1/2 a pound a day on day 42. But, the 2.5#/day calves still received 1.25# of MR in their one feeding starting on day 42.
The calves that were cut back to 1/2#/day increased their starter intake 77% in the next 7 days. The calves cut back to 1.25#/day increased their starter intake from 1/3 pound to just under a pound in the same 7 days (150% increase). My experience managing my own intensively-fed calves was similar; perhaps even a greater rate of increase because I only fed 1#MR/day during the weaning period.
Remember that calves were supposed to reach 2 pounds of starter intake daily before they were weaned. This means that a calf care person had to monitor feed intakes. 
The 1#MR/day calves were weaned at 52 days.
The 2.5#MR/day calves were weaned 56 days regardless of their starter intake.
The intensive fed calves never got up to 2 pounds of starter before they were weaned - the trial ended at 56 days. They floundered around for 2 weeks on their grain:water ration until their feed intakes recovered to pre-weaning levels. Another profit opportunity lost.
My lessons from this trial?
  • Start cutting back on milk sooner than 42 days - maybe around 35 days. That will give more days to come up on grain before milk is stopped.
  • Regardless of how high the maximum feeding rate goes (8, 10 or 12 quarts of MR or milk daily) cut back to only 4 quarts of milk or 1#MR per day rather than 1/2 of maximum. Calves will come up more quickly on grain.
  • Manage for growth rather than convenience. Keep calves on milk until they reach the farm's threshold of grain intake even if this is not convenient.
  • If calving rates force calves out of their pre-weaned housing early try to come up with some way to continue the once-a-day milk feeding until their grain intakes come up.    

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Forage for Weaned Calves
In a recent article, "Inspection Time: How to do an effective calf walkthrough," by Steve Hayes published in Progressive Dairyman (May 1, 2013, vol 27, No. 7, pp78-79) there was a really good note about managing forages for weaned calves.
"Do not change forage consumption for the first week in group pens. If no forage was offered to calves on milk, then no forage should be offered in the first week in the pen. Forage can be successfully introduced after one week."
Great advice.  I would add my recommendation that when the forage is introduced for the first time in these pens I like to see only enough fed the first week that they can clean up in a short time each day. For example, enough hay or haylage to last for an hour (assumes enough space so all the calves have access to the forage at the same time).
SeeTransition calf feeding management  for additional tips for managing adding forages to the ration.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

 Caution: Research Findings may not be Valid!

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Dairy Science you can find an article, "Effect of feeding maternal colostrum or plasma-derived or colostrum-derived colostrum replacer on passive transfer of immunity, health, and performance of preweaned heifer calves." JDS 96:3247-3256
Hey, just what we need. A comparison of three sources of immunity for our newborn calves. 
Tucked into the description of treatments is this short sentence:
"...a decision was made to standarize the volume of solution fed to all calves to eliminate volume fed as a confounder (Jones et al., 2004) and because mass of IgG fed is more important than concentration (Stott and Fellah, 1983)." 
Thus, rather than following the manufacturers' mixing directions to use either 1.3 or 1.5 quarts of water the colostrum replacer products were prepared to result in 4 quarts of solution. This way all calves would be fed 4 quarts of either maternal colostrum or 4 quarts of colostrum replacer.
I went back and read both of the articles cited in that sentence. Jones and others in their study fed the colostrum replacer mixed with volumes recommended by the manufacturer - so, I cannot see how that citation supports mixing up the colostrum replacer to equal 4 quarts when the manufacturers recommend using between 1.3 and 1.5 quarts of water.
Stott and Fellah's article reports a strong positive linear relationship between concentration of antibodies and the rate of absorption - so, I cannot see how the citation supports mixing up the colostrum replacer to equal 4 quarts when the manufacturers recommend using between 1.3 and 1.5 quarts of water. This procedure creates a solution that has a low concentration of antibodies.
In my humble opinion this study was badly biased in favor of maternal colostrum by setting up the two colostrum replacers for impaired antibody absorption.
Moral of the story: the devil is in the details - if you can, ask about how the research was done before you accept the findings as valid.