Thursday, August 29, 2013

How much will a week-old Jersey calf drink?
I had the good fortune today to be invited to tour the young calf facility at New Sweden dairy in Minnesota. This joint venture between the Davis family and the University of Minnesota incorporated many positive practices in calf and heifer rearing.

Today the calf manager, Tom, took us through the climate-controlled units for calves from birth through about three weeks of age. Colostrum management is well done here and at last count this month only a small fraction of the calves had blood serum total protein values below 5.5 with most of them between 6 and 6.5. Three quarts of heat-treated Jersey colostrum (Brix averaging 24 to 28) fed within the first hour of life will do wonders for immune levels. 

The calves are fed pasteurized whole Jersey milk from two-quart bottles. They are fed a 4:00, 10:00, 4 pm and 10 pm. The first few days the bottles have only one quart in them. Around 5 to 7 days they are filled with two quarts. Tom says the nearly all of the calves are cleaning up all four two-quart feedings daily by ten days of age, many at seven days old. 

Yes, with this level of dry matter intake (around 2.2-2.3 pounds daily) the manure is pretty much like paste. So, who cares? The calves at 10 days of age look great - their body condition is just short of chubby - well, they have been gaining in the range of 1.5 to 1.8 pounds a day since day five! 

Tom says they are using protocols that deliver lots of nutrients with the lowest level of pathogens that they can manage. For example, when clean nipples come out of the washer they are handled  with freshly gloved hands. When the bottles are handled by workers with freshly gloved hands a lot of effort is put into avoiding touching nipples - the idea is not to have any contact between the clean nipples and the calves' mouths.

I asked about the need for limiting the milk for the smaller Jersey calves - ones less than 50 pounds. We saw several that I would guess were not too much over 35 pounds. "Nope," he said, "We offer 8 quarts a day and nearly all the small calves drink it just as eagerly as the larger ones." In response to my question about scours treatment rate Tom told us that it has been running about 5 percent this month.

Well, that gives me something to think about.

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