Friday, January 29, 2016

Providing Consistent Quality Care: The Case for
Training Substitute Workers

Do you have one or more days when calf care is provided by persons other than the primary care givers? Nearly all of us have “substitute” workers. They fill in when the regulars have their day or shift off.

To what extent does calf care quality take a hit on these shifts? Are differences in milk replacer mixing introduced? How about volume of milk replacer fed – same volume as on regular shifts? Grain and water feeding is completed with same care as other days? Diagnosis of treatable scours or respiratory illness is as reliable as other days? Is the quality of supportive care for seriously ill calves remain high on these shifts?

First alternative: bitch, bitch, bitch

I talk to many folks that see compromised care on the “off” shifts. It is not nice to admit this but the most common response to lapses in calf care by substitute workers is to complain about them. “I told them to feed just enough grain so the calves would finish eating nearly all of it. What did I find on Monday morning? Every grain pail for the youngest calves was nearly full.”

Or, “I told them to watch for calves that were loose. They might need electrolytes in addition to the regular feedings. Half of the time when I come in the next day there are one or two calves that can barely get up due to dehydration.”

How about another alternative? Train, train, train

On one hand, there can be issues with motivation that lead to sub-standard performance. On the other hand, lack of quality calf care often is connected to lack of skills and/or knowledge. That is where training or even re-training fit in.

Four suggestions for effective training can be found HERE. Or if the link does not work you can go to, click on "Calving Ease Back Issues 2009-2010" - select Quality Calf Care August 2010 Calving Ease.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Will Heat Treating Decrease Viability of Antibotics
in Waste Milk? Don't Depend on It!

In a recent issue of a popular dairy magazine I read this paragraph:

"Veterinary researcher Richard Van Vleck, a member of the Cornell research team [reference is to team headed by Warnick doing research on antimicrobial resistance] suggested pasteurization is a viable means of degrading antibiotic residues to considerably lower levels, which could significantly reduce the influence of antibiotic presence in calves' gut flora."

Since I was unaware of this work I dug it up (Plos One DOI:10.137/journal.pone.0115223 December 15, 2014 "In Vivo Selection of Resistant E. coli after Ingestion of Milk with Added Drug Residues) by Richard Van Vleck Periera and Others. They were looking for changes in E. coli resistance to drugs when calves were exposed to 4 different levels of 4 selected antibiotics. They found that at all levels of exposure to drugs the E. coli in the gut were more resistant to 5 selected antibiotics than in calves with no drug exposure. All calves were fed raw milk.

I did not find any data in the article support the reported connection between pasteurization and the influence of antibiotic exposure in developing drug-resistant E. coli. But, this got me interested in the extent to which heat treating waste milk is related to decreasing the effectiveness of antibiotics in waste milk fed to calves. 

 I dug some more and found this article;

M. Roca and Others, "Effect of heat treatments on stability of beta-lactams in milk," Journal of Dairy Science 94:1155-1164. (2011)

Two of their findings:

1. "Heat treatments at high temperatures and long times (e.g, 120C for 20 minutes) led to a further degredation of beta-lactam antibiotics with percentages close to 100 percent for cefoperazone and cefuroxime."

If you are not familiar with 120C that's about 248F. 

2. "When milk was subjected to heat treatments at lower temperatures (e.g., 72C for 15 seconds), the degradaton of beta lactams in milk did not exceed 1% for the 10 antibiotics tested." (emphasis added)

If you are not familiar with high-temperature, short-time pasteurization on-farm pasteurizers, 72C for 15 seconds are the "normal" temperatures and times used to process waste milk for feeding calves. Batch pasteurizing waste milk is usually done at a lower temperature for longer period of time, 145F for 30 minutes.

What do I conclude based on their findings? Given normal on-farm processing of waste milk containing antibiotic residues there is virtually no effect of the pasteurization process on the antibiotics in this milk. That is, after pasteurization these antibiotics remained effective in suppressing the growth of certain sensitive species of bacteria.

From a management point of view, therefore, I am inclined to recommend that sources of waste milk with high concentrations of antibiotics be diverted from the "calf milk" supply. The single most obvious source is the first milking after cows have been treated with an intra-mammary infusion of mastitis drugs - milk it out down the drain.

Just more food for thought for calf managers.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Using Refractometers for a Calf Operation

Good short article on using refractometers for a calf operation appears in the January 19, 2016 issue of Progressive Dairyman (pages 35-37) [available online at, click on magazine and follow prompts. 

Andy Beckel does a good job of summarizing these topics:
  • Uses for a calf operation
  • Choose the right tool
  • Set your protocols
  • Clean, clean, clean
  • Calibrate
  • Act on the results
His table comparing three different kinds of refractometers is easy to read and helpful in comparing
  1. cost
  2. accuracy
  3. temperature self-adjusting
  4. method
  5. ease of cleaning
  6. advantages
  7. disadvantages.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Feeding Transition Milk to Young Dairy Calves

What milk is “Transition” milk? The very first milking is fed as “first-feeding” colostrum to newborn calves. Most commonly the milk from the second, third and fourth milking is called “transition milk.” 

There are some dairies that include the fifth and sixth milking as well. It can be blended with any first-milking that is either too low in antibodies to feed at first feeding or is excess. 

If colostrum is not checked for antibody concentration some farms put all of their heifer colostrum into this pool as well. 

This new resource at looks like this:

Feeding Transition Milk and Colostrum To Young Dairy Calves 

  • How to make feeding transition milk practical 
  • Advantages of feeding transition milk and colostrum 
  • Disadvantages of feeding transition milk and colostrum 
This new resource can be found at with the title, "Transition Milk Feeding."
The link is: 

Or, click HERE

Related resources on colostrum are in the Calf Facts resource library  - the resource sheets are arranged in alphabetical order - just scroll down to the twenty-four colostrum entries.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Stress Management for Heifers

Many stresses occur in the first few months of a calf's life. Just being born is a huge stress. We have only limited control over that one. 

Other stresses, however, are the result of management decisions. Managed one way, too many stresses can be too large and occur too close to each other. 

Better management has the potential to reduce these stresses and, certainly, spread them out over time.

A new resource is now available at that looks like this:

Stress Management for Heifers 
  • Why is stress undesirable? 
  • Reducing stresses and spreading them out 
  • Stacking stresses is the granddaddy of all mistakes for stress management. 
The link to this resource is:

or you can go there by clicking HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Navels: What's Normal and Abnormal?

Knowing the difference between normal and abnormal is the basis for timely diagnosis and treatment of navel infections. 

The new resource at looks like this:

Navels What’s Normal and Abnormal? 
  • What is normal at birth and for very young calves? 
  • What is abnormal at birth and for very young calves? 
  • Preventing infections 
  • Diagnosing and treating infections promptly . Eighty-eight percent of the navel infections were neither diagnosed nor treated by the owners! (reference below)
The link for this resource is: or you may click HERE to go there. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Scours: What is a "Normal" Treatment Rate?

When greeting a calfcare person on a farm I always ask, “How are the calves doing?” I hear about the ones that are doing well and ones that are doing poorly. That’s life.

I get suspicious, however, when I hear about quite a few scouring calves and the person adds, “But, that’s normal.” 

What is the person telling me about the situation today? That fifty percent of the calves with scours is the usual state of health? Or, is the person telling me that this situation is “just the way life is expected to be. It can’t be changed.” Or, both? 

A new resource sheet at discusses:
1. What is a "normal" rate of treatment?
2. Are scours inevitable or preventable?
3. What is the best treatment goal for my farm?

The link for this resources is or click HERE to go there. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mixing Milk Replacer - Getting It Right!

A new guide for mixing milk replacer is now available at It can be accessed by clicking HERE. An outline of content appears below.

Mixing Tips for Milk Replacer 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing temperature, amount of powder and volume of water. 
  • Have a written recipe [so many calves = so much powder and water]. 
  • Use scales to measure milk replacer powder. 
  • Calibrate containers rather than estimating water volume. 
  • Make a calibrated measuring stick for mixing. 
  • Use a thermometer to get the right temperature mix. 
An additional resource is the December issue of the calf management newsletter - go to this issue by clicking HERE. The title is "Mixing Milk Replacer: Are You Using Best Management Practices?" 

If you do not already receive an e-mail when a new issue of the calf management newsletter is posted on-line, send an e-mail to with subscribe in the subject line. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Improving Treatment Effectiveness

When we treat sick calves our goal is to be cost effective - that is, maximum effect for minimum expense.

A new resource in the Calf Facts library includes examples for scours and pneumonia.

Access this resource by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January issue of calf management newsletter

The January 2016 issue of the calf management newsletter, Calving Ease, is now posted at the web site. Access by clicking HERE.

Key points:
  • Types of cold stress (hypothermia).
  • If in doubt, use a thermometer! 
  • Prevention always works better than treatment. 
  • Treating mild hypothermia. 
  • Treating severe hypothermia – always consult with your veterinarian for the best protocol for your dairy. 
Other notable ideas:

Remember, conditions that seem warm to people are often enough colder than a newborn calf’s body and can result in hypothermia. Hard delivery or dystocia calves often suffer from hypothermia.

Calves that  survive severe hypothermia - remember that their body defense systems have been significantly weakened. Observe these calves closely for the next few weeks for symptoms of diarrhea and pneumonia

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lying Behavior in Calves:
How Does it Make a Difference?

Ever notice that young calves lie down a lot of the time?

There is a new resource in the Calf Facts resource library that describes lying behavior among young calves and reviews management implications. Click HERE to access. 

Lying Behavior in Calves

  • Calf behavior
  • Implications for transporting calves
  • Implications for calf pens/hutches