Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tubing Colostrum - Let's Do it Right

I suffer from a case of too much optimism. I see folks on several farms doing a job the right way at the right time. I get lulled into a sense that everyone must be following best management practices and doing their jobs properly.

Then, reality comes crashing in. I go out to the calving area. A calf care person comes up to a newborn calf - less than half an hour old I am told - calf is still wet,  not yet standing.

The person has both a nursing bottle and a tube feeder full of colostrum. I know it is warm because I checked the temperature with a rapid read thermometer - 105F. He sets the nursing bottle down outside the calving pen (both dam and calf are in the pen). He comes into the pen with the bag-style esophageal tube feeder (holds about 2 quarts). 

Now, get this. Calf is lying on its side, head down on the straw. With the calf in this position he raises her head enough to insert the feeding tube. Drains the bag containing the colostrum. As soon as the bag is empty (note that the long tube from the bag into the calf is not yet empty) out comes the tube. He refills the tube feeder with the colostrum from the bottle. Puts tube back into the calf (calf still prone, flat on her side), empties tube feeder and pulls out tube (note that the long plastic tube leading from bag to calf was not yet empty when he pulled the feeder tube out of the calf). 

I was getting paid to observe and eventually make recommendations to improve the profitability of the calf enterprise on this dairy. I was not given permission to raise hell by shouting at their employees. But it was really hard to keep from breaking in and giving this worker a lesson on how to use an esophageal tube feeder.

Let's do it right! Let's provide adequate instruction for persons with the responsibility of using esophageal tube feeders. Click Here for 4 Rules for Tube Feeding. Click Here for a checklist for training employees to follow a protocol. Click Here for a checklist for monitor employees' compliance with protocols.

If the calf is not standing always have her up on her belly (sternal position). Organize work so that the tube is inserted just one time, not twice. Exercise enough patience to allow the feeding tube to empty before removing from the calf.

I'm still an optimist. But I am also realistic enough to know that there will always be room for improvement.

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