Making Sense From Loose Poop
When preweaned dairy calves are housed individually the calf care person has an opportunity to look at poop (aka feces) from each calf.
One of my biggest training challenges while managing a calf enterprise was teaching new workers what to look for in poop and how to assign the correct meaning to various qualities.
When I made a major change in my milk feeding program I had to re-learn this business of making sense from loose poop. The new milk feeding rate was increased gradually during the first two weeks with the goal of feeding four quarts twice daily to deliver approximately two pounds of milk replacer powder a day. This was an increase from 1.25 pounds per day.
In my note on Milk Feeding in An Intensive Feeding Program I have a section, "Manure Patrol." [Click HERE for this resource] I had a lot to learn about manure from intensively-fed calves. When you put a lot in the front a lot comes out the back!
A recent presentation at the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association annual conference highlighted this challenge of interpreting the fecal output from intensively-fed preweaned dairy calves.
The author commented,
"A couple of recent studies from my lab are confirming that calves fed greater quantities of milk solids early in life have greater fecal scores [vet-speak for looser poop]; however, when the dry matter percentage of the calves feces were determined there were no differences between calves fed differing quantities of milk solids." (p37).
Bottom Line? Loose poop is normal and okay among these intensively-fed calves.
So, what was my training challenge?
Well, there is loose poop and there is loose poop. I had to show my new helpers the difference between "normal" colored poop (yellowish, straw colored) and white and/or containing blood. They needed to be able to judge consistency differences between "watery" (sick calf) and "loose" (runny, seeps into bedding).
Just a reminder if you move from limit-fed calves to either free-choice acidified milk or to an automatic feeder, as you increase liquid intake plan on lots more urine. An lots more bedding is always needed to maintain reasonably dry resting space compared to limit-fed calves.
Reference: Ballou, Michael A., "Nutritional strategies to improve the health of pre-weaned calves and growing heifers." Proceedings of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, April 11-13, 2017, Madison, WI pp33-40.