Monday, October 30, 2017

Fixing Passive Transfer Failure

This is the title of a new post at Click HERE for the post [click HERE for the metric version]
[also can be accessed at under Resources, Calf Facts]

Key points:
  • How soon after birth is the first colostrum feeding?
  • What quality of colostrum is being fed at first feeding?
  • What quantity of colostrum is being fed for first feeding?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Extended Weaning Influences Digestion Efficiency

How long is the weaning period? Three days, 7 days or 10 days or 14 days?

The authors suggest that when calf starter grain intakes increase rapidly from  100-200g/day to more than 1,000g/day in 5 to 7 days (short weaning period) digestion is compromised. They conclude the digestion rates are low enough to leave the heifers short on energy and protein to maintain preweaning rates of structural growth.

"A recent comparison of weaning over 7 or 14 days to complete weaning by 8 weeks reported greater organic matter digestibility at 12 weeks for calves weaned over 14 days." (Dennis, 2017 abst.)

"It is known that calves fed a large amount of milk replacer will have lower digestibility of starter postweaning than calves fed moderate amounts of milk replacer and this difference in digestion appears to persist for at least 4 week." (Dennis 2017 p9003) [emphasis added]

Evidence is piling up that longer weaning periods for calves fed large amounts (for example, 2 pounds or 1 kg MR, 8 to 10 quarts of whole milk daily) of milk replacer/milk need time once they begin consuming calf stater grain (concentrate) to develop efficient digestive processes in their rumens. Dennis, Hill and others are suggesting 2 weeks rather than 7 days as a more appropriate step down period.

I used 2 week-long weaning period with my own calves (roughly 35-49 days). I did not observe negative trends at the end of milk feeding. I kept them in individual housing for one more week. for close observation. During the first week post-weaning I wanted the weaned calves to be active, bright-eyed and actively eating their calf starter grain and eager to eat the small amount of hay in their grain bucket. Then around 56 to 60 days they moved into group pens (5 per pen). 

Dennis suggests a 4 week adaptive period is required to full adaptation of the rumen to a grain-based ration. I did not have that long. I don't know if I should have seen some issues the last week in individual housing and the  first 3 weeks my calves were in transition pens. But, I treated very few calves for pneumonia, they spent a lot of time running around in their out-door pens (16' x 32') and ate well over 5 lbs (somewhat more than 2kg) grain daily. Unfortunately, although I had weaning weights I was not collecting any measurements (weight, height) after weaning - that is, in the transition grower phase. 

Refernces: Dennis, T.S., and Others, "Effects fo egg yolk inclusion, milk replacer feeding rate, and low-starch (pelleted) or high-starch (texturized) starter on Holstein calf performance through 4 months of age." Journal of Dairy Science 100: 8995-9006. Dennis. T.S. and Others, "Effects of previous milk replacer feeding program on calf performance and digestion through 4 months of age." Journal of Dairy Science 100 [E-suppl 2:301] Abstract. 2017.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Do You Need to Monitor Bacteria Levels for Your
Automatic Milk Feeder?


Well, I know you expect to have the post contain more than one word.

In recently reported research  these were only the coliform bacteria counts, not the total bacteria counts.

Location of sample                       Median (cfu/ml)  Lowest    Highest
                                                         [coliform counts, colony forming units per milliliter (cfu/ml)]

Exit from mixing vessel into the         336                   0        25,621,330
feeder tube

End of feeder tube at the nipple      10,430                45        28,517,000

For my clients we use the goal of no greater than 1,000cfu/ml coliforms in milk/milk replacer. That means among study farms most of them failed to keep their equipment clean enough to deliver wholesome un-contaminated milk to their calves. Is it surprising that 54% of the calves in the study require treatment for scours?

Look just at the median values, 336 coming out of the mixing vessel going into the feeder tube and 10,430 coming out of the feeding tube into the nipple. I consider this 3,000% increase pretty good evidence that changing those tubes regularly and often could be one way to lower this contamination rate. Clearly, it is possible to screw up keeping feeding equipment clean.

Look at the variation between the "cleanest" (lowest) and "most contaminated" (highest) dairies. Where would you want to be a calf?  On the dairy with 45cfu or the dairy with 28 million cfu/ml coliforms in milk?

(Jorgensen, M.W. and Others, "Mortality and health treatment rates of dairy calves in automated milk feeder systems in the Upper Midwest of the United States." Journal of Dairy Science, 100:9186-9193)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Link Between Disinfecting Navels and Mortality

Over a decades long period of time I have been advocating disinfecting navels on newborn calves. In the Calf Facts library at our website I have three posts about navel dipping - one of them is Dipping Navels: Dollars and Sense [click HERE to go there].

A newly published study of dairies with automated milk feeding systems (26 dairies from the US Upper Midwest) collected data on mortality and disinfecting navels.

Here are the results: [average rate of mortality]

No navel disinfecting [22% of farms] = 7.3% mortality
Yes, navel disinfecting [78% of farms] = 3.0% mortality
57% of the farms reported mortality rates less than 3 % with one dairy having a 13.4% death rate.

We suspect that there are other best management practices that go along with disinfecting newborn navels that, in part, are also connected to calf mortality.

Reference: Jorgensen, M.W. and Others,"Mortality and health treatment rates of dairy calves in automated milk feeding systems in the Upper Midwest of the United States." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9186-9193 October 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

16% of Calf Mortality Tied to Antibody Levels in Newborn Blood

Yes, that is what the title says, By following best colostrum management practices you should be able to drop your calf mortality rate by 16%. 

Well maybe that is an overgeneralization. But, recently reported research on 26 Upper Midwestern US dairy farms using automated milk feeding systems examined the connection between rate of mortality and the successful transfer of passive immunity via colostrum. 

They checked blood serum total protein [BSTP] levels on the calves that were in group housing for the automatic feeders. [BSTP is a measure of blood antibody levels] Depending on how you define passive transfer failure here are the BSTP results:

Below 5.0g/dL - 23.3% of all the samples in the study
Below 5.2g/dL - 36.0% of all the samples in the study

The goals I use with my client farms are
Below 5.0 = 10%
Below 5.5 = 20%

Thus, there were lots of calves in this study with less than desirable passive transfer of immunity. They found that they could explain 16% of the variation among the calf population mortality by knowing the BSTP of the calf. 

Reference: Jorgensin, M.W. and Others, "Mortality and health treatment rates of dairy calves in automated milk feeding systems in the Upper Midwest of the United States." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9186-9193 October 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

How Clean is Your Colostrum Handling Equipment?

Let's look at some data from 52 dairy farms from the Province of Ontario that were supplying bull calves for two veal calf operations. They had a range of 35 to 520 cows in the herd, 73% housed in free-stall barns. Colostrum handling equipment (nipple bottles, tube feeders and pails) were selected  randomly for testing on each farm. Only 1 item in each category was checked on each farm.

They used 15ml sterile water samples to rinse the interior surfaces on each piece of equipment. Each sample was split into 2 parts - one part was send for laboratory bacterial culturing and one part was checked using luminometry.

Lab culture results - total bacteria count

                                             <100,000cfu/ml     >100,000cfu/ml     >1,000,000cfu/ml
Nipple bottle (n=49)                    39%                        61%             Of the 49, 20% over a million

Esophageal tube fdr (n=18)         28%                        72%             Of the 18, 44% over a million

Pail (n=6)                                    100%                     None                         None

That's right -the rinse samples from two out of five tube feeders had total bacteria counts over 1,000,000cfu/ml.

One out of five nipple bottles had rinse sample total bacteria counts over 1,000,000cfu/ml.

What are the chances that one or more pieces of your colostrum handling equipment is as contaminated as those on these farms?

If you are still interested, similar lab culture results for coliform bacteria were

                                             <10,000cfu/ml     >10,000cfu/ml          >50,000cfu/ml
Nipple bottle (n=49)                    80%                        20%             Of the 49, 8% over 50,000

Esophageal tube fdr (n=18)         83%                        17%             Of the 18, 17% over 50,000

Pail (n=6)                                    67%                         33%                           33%

Reference: Renaud, D. L. and Others, "Validation of commercial luminometry swabs for total bacteria and coliform counts in colostrum-feeding equipment." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9459-9465 October 2017.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Checking for Cleaning via Luminometer

Interesting data from University of Guelph research team on the connection between luminometer readings and laboratory bacteria culture results are found in this report:
"Validation of commercial luminometry swabs for total bacteria and coliform counts in colostrum-feeding equipment." (Journal of Dairy Science, 100:9459-9465 October 2017).

Using the test equipment available to the general public (Hygiena luminometer and various test swabs) they conclude that the Aqua-Snap Total and Microshap Coliform swabs are an acceptable alternative to traditional bacteria counts to evaluate cleanliness of colostrum-feeding equipment. About 59% of their surfaces has bacteria counts of at least 100,000cfu/ml - so they had plenty of dirty surfaces to check.

Note that they used rinse samples (15ml sterile water rinsed the surfaces to be tested).

At our vet clinic we use the Ultra-Snap testing swaps (direct collection from dry surfaces with moistened swabs). The data below are from a commercial dairy June 2016-July2017. Note the up and down pattern at certain sample sites. Acceptable ATP values were selected by the dairy.

Sanitation Audit Data
Acceptable ATP values: Feeding equipment <100, Environment<250
Location Sample Site Swab Site 14-Jun 14-Sep 13-Oct 10-Nov 22-Dec 30-Jun 26-Jul
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016 2017 2017
Milk room milker bucket newer inside 1/3 down 48 46 56 6 10 7 80
milker bucket older inside 1/3 down 259 45 17 11 10 11 121
plastic lid underside, under gask. 741 5298 118 93 34 41 58
Utility room Tube feeder inside bottle 2" - refrig 33 10 0 66 77 20 & 6 2&7
(calving) Tube feeder (ss) inside tube - top 2" 11 1404 0 4 59 3592 1
Tube feeder (ss) inside tube - ball 2" 995 3458 0 60 0 340 44
Holding pen plastic side - 1 ft.up 443 1167 555 1150 548 577 389
Garage Past. Milk discharge inside hose 2 inches 0 9 1 3 44 115 19
Gator Trans. Tank inside top 21 101 0 0 0 7 6
Trans. Tank end of hose 2 422 5 0 2 10 156
Trans. Tank feeding hose outlet 2 0 2 0 0 3 19&95
Nursing bottle inside bottle 2 inches 83 3027 n/a n/a 0 n/a 131
Nursing nipple inside surface 7 7976 n/a n/a 1363 n/a 208
Hutches Fdg. Pail 1 wk.(new) inside 1/3 down 144 2719 41 623 1 Rain 179
Fdg. Pail 1 wk.(old) inside 1/3 down 76 1919 24 500 0 Rain 33
Fdg. Pail 4 wks. inside 1/3 down 91 1020 213 225 90 Rain 1159*
Hutch surface 1 wk inside across from fdr 26 5989 925 289 209 Rain 621
Kane Grain fdr. 1 wk. front edge tray 41 240 74 30 191 Rain n/a
Kane Grain fdr. 4 wks. front edge tray 132 1158 428 54 59 Rain 1458
Bold = Needs Improvement *second pail = 2347

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

4 Tips to jump start your winter calf feeding program

This short note by Tom Earleywine of Land 'O Lakes includes:
  1. Increase nutrition levels
  2. Transition to a seasonal milk replacer
  3. Keep starter fresh
  4. Avoid frozen buckets

This is the link, click HERE

or if the link doesn't work this is the URL

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Risk Assessment Checklist
[New for UK/Metric library]

The latest revision of the Risk Assessment Checklist is now posted at in the Resource section in the Calf Facts section. 

Click HERE to access the checklist.
Or paste the URL in the search window of your Internet browser:

The four sections are:
1. Calving area
2. Colostrum management
3. Housing
4. Nutrition

Friday, October 6, 2017

Caring for Calves Can Be Painful

This is the title of the October issue of the calf management newsletter. To go to the letter click HERE. If the link does not work here is the URL

The letter talks about calf care persons and their problems with painful backs and elbows. The outline is:

  • Chronic pain
  • Sources of stress
  • Can we reduce chronic back pain?
  • Lifting
  • Can we reduce elbow and shoulder pain?
  • Practical calf care examples we identified
Best wishes for finding a solution that works for you!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"My advice for our future calf feeder"

What a great down-to-earth article by  Kelli Woodring, a dairy producer and calf care person from Pennsylvania, USA.

It is HERE or you can search for Progressive Dairyman, October 1, 2017 issue and find page 164,

Kelli has 9 very sound points to make for any and all calf care persons - a really fun read. Enjoy!