Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Only Treat the Sick Ones
False Economy in Managing Coccidosis
The conversation runs sort of like this:
Me: How are you making out with your coccidiosis control program?
My penny-pinching dairyman (PPD): Not so good. We are still having to treat a lot of heifers in the transition barn pens. We catch each one and drench her. It takes a lot of time, you know. They have to be drenched for five days in a row.
Me: Have you ordered the milk replacer with the coccidiostat mixed in it?
PPD: Well, no. It was going to add $.xx per bag. And, anyway, those calves on milk replacer are not the ones that are sick.
Me: I thought we agreed that all the calves need to have a coccidiostat in their ration to shut down "egg" shedding. Remember how we talked about adding (x brand coccidiostat) to both the calf starter grain and transition barn pellets? Have you made that change yet?
PPD: Well, no. It was going to add $ per ton. Anyway, we are doing better just treating the sick ones.
Oh, my. How to get the idea of managing exposure levels across to this "thrifty" dairyman? I tried to explain how infection levels reflect shedding rates. It only takes a few heavy-shedding animals to raise the exposure level for all the heifers in the pen. 

We also talked about how sub-clinical coccidosis depresses feed conversion rates resulting in slower growth and unthrifty appearance. It is a challenge to get practice changes when low growth rates and unthrifty appearance are seen as "normal."

Me: Anything else we need to talk about today?

PPD: Well, I think we may need a different grain mix. We are spending too much time treating so many of them for scours. It must be the grain mix. What do you think about adding roasted soybeans?

Me: [Sam - bite your tongue!] Have you talked with your nutritionist about this? Has he suggested including (x brand ionophore)?

The conversation headed downhill from there. He is convinced that changing the grain mix being fed to the transition heifers will decrease the amount of time they are spending treating scouring heifers one at a time in these pens.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't try to use disinfectants to clean up a manure spreader!

Of course, the title of this blog sounds crazy. We would not go out and spray a manure spreader with a disinfectant - makes no sense at all.

For a review of disinfectants, their characteristics and use click this link: Center for Food Security and Public Health . They have two great tables that summarize lots of information: (1) Characteristics of Selected Disinfectants and (2) The antimicrobial spectrum of disinfectatants. And, there is a one-page protocol that captures all the principles of effective disinfection.

Why talk about this? Because on last Thursday I had a working discussion with dairy producers about cleaning calf feeding equipment. Several of them were cleaning their equipment by "washing" them in a disinfectant solution - not too much different than trying to clean a manure spreader!

The bottles, pails and tube feeders were not rinsed before going into the disinfectant solution.

This equipment did not come in contact with a hot chlorinated detergent solution. How else to remove the milk fat and proteins?

With all the build up of biofilms containing fat and protein on calf feeding equipment there is no way that the expensive disinfectants can effectively kill pathogens.

An effective washing protocol is at (also in Spanish and French). Click HERE for the English version. Once the equipment is washed and detergent rinsed away, then equipment can be immersed in a disinfectant solution for the required length of time to get the desired kill.

Bottom line? You cannot expect to get rid of pathogens by washing calf feeding equipment with a disinfectant solution any more than you can do the same with a manure spreader!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dystocia Calves Need TLC
Yesterday morning I listened to a talk by Dr. Franklyn Garry, Colorado State Univ., given at calf seminar in Lansing MI. Among other things he highlighted the increased probability of calves requiring more than minimal assistance at calving of being sick or dying in the first 60 days of life.

He recommended that all calves that require this kind of birthing assistance be identified in some easy-to-see way. With this identification extra TLC (tender-loving-care) can be provided consistently by everyone that is providing calf care. 

In particular, Dr. Garry suggested that these high-risk calves be observed more intensely for symptoms of illness. If they have diarrhea they are more likely than other calves to become dehytrated - so extra care is needed in providing electrolytes. When exposed to respiratory pathogens they are more likely than other calves to have pneumonia - extra care is needed to monitor respiratory risk symptoms.

You might be interested in going to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine web site for a respiratory-risk observation guide - click Here for the guide - be sure to scroll to page two for the pictures.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Washing Does Work
During two recent farm visits I observed the calves being fed from a mobile unit with a feeding tank on the back, pump and a nozzle controlled by the driver. Drive up, squeeze nozzle, feed calf, drive on to next calf, repeat. 
In both cases I obtained samples of raw milk, milk directly from the pasteurizer, milk coming out of feeding nozzle. 
Overall bacteria culture results?
1. Relatively low bacteria counts for raw milk.
2. Virtually no bacteria in samples coming from the discharge hose from the HTST pasteurizers.
3. Significant bacteria counts in the milk coming out of the feeding nozzle.
Compare these counts for one farm:
Raw - 3,100
Pasteurized - 500
Nozzle - 20,700 including 5,700 coliforms.
Hmmmm. Looks like post-pasteurization contamination.
The other farm went from no growth on pasteurized sample to the nozzle results of TNTC (TNTC gram positives, 7,000 E. coli, 4,000 Klebsiella)  [TNTC = too numerous to count] 
More post-pasteurization contamination.

As soon as they received the bacteria culture results from the our lab the second farm changed their wash routine - rather than washing the hose and nozzle used to feed calves by just draining the tank wash water out through it they started fixing the hose and nozzle so they circulate wash water as the tank washes.

They did this for three days twice a day. Then they collected more samples. Milk going into the tank virtually no bacteria. Milk coming out the nozzle - the lowest count was 620 cfu/ml and the highest count was 1,602cfu/ml of the four samples cultured. This may be compared to the TNTC sample from the same equipment before the revised washing protocol.

Washing does work, especially if all of the equipment gets washed.

Just as an aside, the calf care person at this second dairy noted that the frequency of scours problems among young calves has dropped significantly since the new wash protocol was put into place.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Up-and-Down Bacteria Counts 
in Colostrum
A recent visit to a dairy gave me 10 "as-fed" colostrum samples. Click Here for a protocol for collecting "as-fed" colostrum samples. 

They were cultured for bacteria. The results look like this: (TNTC = too numerous to count)
Sample  Coliform Total Plate
Number  Count      Count
     1          None          None
     2          None          600
     3          2,000          9,000
     4          1,500          22,500         
     5          5,200          10,200
     6          20,000        21,500
     7          22,000        22,800
     8          25,000        43,000
     9          ???             TNTC (Staph and Strep species) - plate overgrown
     10        TNTC        TNTC (mostly coliforms) - plate overgrown
Click Here for a description of consequences of high coliform counts in colostrum.
Are you thinking, "How can these samples be so different?"
First, the farm has unwritten protocols for colostrum collection and handling. When followed these protocols can result in quite clean colostrum - see samples 1 and 2. 
Second, it seems obvious that not all colostrum is collected and handled according to the "word-of-mouth" protocols - see samples 6 through 10.

Maybe it is time to monitor protocol compliance. The procedure for monitoring protocol compliance that I prepared for checking on cleaning equipment is valid for this process as well. You can find it by clicking Monitoring protocol compliance.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monitoring "As-Fed" Milk
Last Friday I received from our in-house lab the bacteria culture results for pasteurized milk being fed to calves. Calves are housed in hutches, fed in pails, milk delivered from a Kubota fitted out with a transport tank, milk fed with a pump, hose and nozzle.
The raw milk and pasteurized milk samples had low bacteria counts (pasteurized milk 500 and 800 cfu/ml on two different days).
 However, the "as-fed" milk samples (pasteurized milk went into a mobile feeding tank, was pumped out through a hose with a nozzle at the end) jumped from 100 cfu/ml to 20,700 and 11,500 cfu/ml on the two sample days. Each of these "as-fed" samples had coliform counts of 5,000 and greater. While there has not been an epidemic of scours among these calves it is worthy to note that these persistent high counts have compromised both feed conversion and immunity levels. Thus, there are lower growth rates than we should see given the current level of nutrition and the calves have been at higher risk for infections, especially pneumonia.

So far as anyone on the farm knows "nothing has changed" since the previous monitoring day when "as-fed" samples at the end of the feeding cycle were 1,200 cfu/ml.

"When was the last time anyone checked the temperature of the wash water for the feeding tank wash at the end of the wash cycle?" Well, no one could remember the last time this had been checked.
What volume of detergent is being added to the wash cycle? Answer: one cup. Is this the same cup that the milking equipment dealer provided or a different one? No one seems to know about the cup.

Is the feeding hose and nozzle still being placed in a full open position and positioned to pump into the feeding tank? [This washes the hose and nozzle rather than just pumping the wash water out through them at the end of the tank wash cycle.] Well, maybe this is being done some of the time but not all of the time - meaning? Probably infrequently since it is an extra step in the cleaning process and requires climbing on top of the Kubota to position the hose and nozzle.

When was the ball washer checked to see that some of the holes are not plugged? Last fall, probably in October. This might be a good time to re-check for plugged holes. 

These are all little things but the impact of all of them clearly can be seen in the monitoring samples.

My recommendation was to check all this stuff, be sure everything is working well for 7 to 10 days, and collect milk samples again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Calibrate that refractometer
Have you ever attempted to solve a problem that doesn't exist?
I had this experience this week. My client had a "problem" with low immunity values among calves. They had an unexpected drop in blood serum total protein readings. 
They are quite consistent in drawing blood at approximately the same time each day. Samples always are allowed to sit undisturbed for about 24 hours before the same person uses the farm's clinical refractometer to assess BSTP values. 
As we started to work on the "problem" I routinely asked about their protocol for calibrating the clinical refractometer. She could not recall when that was last done. We found some distilled water. Oooooops!
Somehow the refractometer was reading between 0.3 and 0.4 low. We tinkered with the adjustment screw and repeated the distilled water readings until the right-hand scale read "0."
Then we repeated the BSTP reading for the blood samples we had on hand.
Presto! The "problem" of low blood serum total protein values disappeared.
When I was doing on-farm BSTP readings I calibrated every Monday - the idea is to have some regular schedule - maybe even write it on a calendar?
Just as an aside, in the absence of distilled water I have used sterile water (usually have some on hand) to calibrate my hand held refractometer. I get the same reading as distilled water so in a pinch the sterile water probably is better than not calibrating at all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hutch Ventilation:
If anything go wrong, it will.

We start with good intentions. We prop up the rear of the hutch. Now air can enter under the hutch to improve air flow during hot weather. 
This is what we have in mind - open in the back and nice dry bedding toward the front. 

But, if enough sawdust is added, especially if it is just "tossed" into the hutch this is the result. 

Or, if long straw is added on top of the sawdust the result is a fully blocked off vent area.

If anything can go wrong it will unless we work at doing it right every time. 

You might want to look at the July issue of Calving Ease with the topic of hot weather management with hutch housing - click HERE

Monday, July 8, 2013

Transition Rations for Calves
Raised with Limited Milk
In June I posted a graph showing the amount of feed available for growth for calves fed an intensive or accelerated milk ration before weaning. A reader asked if the effects of the limited-hay vs. ad lib. hay rations for the transition period would be similar for calves fed the traditional 4 quarts/day of 20-20 milk replacer. 
I worked out the numbers to create the same "feed available" graph for limited-milk-fed calves. Below I posted first the feed-available graph for these calves and then below that the same graph for calves raised on an intensive milk ration. Both graphs show the "see-saw" effects of ration and pen changes on feed intake and efficiency of feed conversion.

As I have time I will post similar comparison graphs for live weights for the two populations of calves.