Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Feeding Tubes on Automatic Feeders - A Weak Link in Sanitation

Recently reported research (38 dairies in upper Midwestern US) describes the bacterial challenge presented at the end of the feeding tubes.

They found these median values at the end of the feeder tubes:
1. coliform count - 10,430 cfu/ml (range from 45cfu.ml to 28,517,000)
2. standard plate count - 2,566.867 cfu/ml (range from 6,668 to 82,825,000 cfu/ml)

For my clients that are feeding with bottles or buckets I recommend no more than 1,000 cfu/ml coliforms and 10,000 cfu/ml standard plate count.

Compared to the standards that I insist on for my manual feeding clients, these automatic feeder "end of feeder tube" bacteria counts sound like a disaster in the making for calf gut health. 

I checked to see what sanitation measures were being used on these farms. 

Feeding tubes (or hoses) were manually cleaned on the average of 1.9 times per week. The range was from 0 to 14. Yes, at least one farm was cleaning these hoses twice a day. That is in sharp contrast to 36 % of the farms not cleaning them at all. 

Changing old hoses for new ones? Hoses were reported to be changed on average of 19 times a year (somewhere between every 2 or 3 weeks). The range for changing hoses (per year) was from 1 to 104. I have examined these hoses in a few auto feeder barns that were discolored from bacterial growth displaying various red, blue, yellow and green patterns. Ugh!

What do you want to bet that the farms at the bottom of the bacterial contamination rate changed hoses frequently? My money is on the farm that changed hoses twice a week (104/yr).

How expensive are these hoses? Our vet clinic retails this hose at about $80/100 feet. That's right, $.80/foot. One of my clients with 2 feeders and 4 feeding stations uses about 50 feet for each hose change. That comes to $40 for new hoses. They change hoses weekly. Compare that to the cost of electrolyte and antibiotic supplies plus treatment labor when 60 to 80% of the calves require treatment. 

Reference:Jorgensen, M.W. and Others, "Housing and management characteristics of calf automated feeding systems in the Upper Midwest of the United States." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9881-9891 December 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Predictors of Extended Time to Bucket Train

From a sample of 1,235 calves from one dairy researchers recorded the number of feedings required to successfully train a calf to drink from a bucket. The colostrum was administered with a tube feeder. 

Starting the second day of life the calves were fed 2.1 quarts of whole unpasteurized milk twice a day. After 3 days of age nearly 60% of the calves consumed their morning milk meal without assistance

I was interested in how rapidly the remaining 40% of calves picked up drinking from a bucket. By day 5 the proportion drinking without assistance was 92%. From my on-farm work perspective I remember bucket training taking a fair amount of work at every feeding even though we averaged only 2 to 3 newborn heifers daily.

Bull calves and twins regularly required additional days to drink from a bucket without help from a care giver.

One tip that made this work go easier for me in cold weather - remember that it is easier to teach a calf to drink when the milk is warm; that is, between 100-105F. During cold weather (in Western New York that means at least from October through April) I filled between 8 and 12 nursing bottles with milk and loaded them in 5-gallon pails partially filled with  120F water. We would drop off these pails at the newborn hutches. Either a co-worker or myself started feeding the other calves that were already drinking from buckets. The other person would dump one bottle into a bucket and work with the youngest calf (remember the other bottles are sitting in warm water). Repeat process for the second calf, and so on.

Once we adopted this warm water bath procedure we cut out training time nearly in half - no more trying to teach drinking with cold milk!

Reference: Mandel, C. and Others, "Predictors of time to dairy calf bucket training." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9769-9774. December 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cold Weather & Colostrum

Dr. Bob Corbett describes the issue of adequate energy intake by closeup dry cows and its impact on the volume of colostrum produced.

Click HERE for the full article.

On the point of adequate dry matter intake he has this to say:
"The biggest reason for a reduction in intake is overcrowding on the close-up pen. Use only 80% of the available bunk space. Separating first-calf heifers from older cows will also improve intake of the younger animals."

He reminds us:
"Obviously, antibody content of the colostrum and cleanliness is necessary to maximize antibody levels in the blood of the calf, along with administration of 10% of the birth weight in colostrum as soon as possible after birth."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

STOP! Don't Cut that Nipple
[Bottle Feeding Tip]

This short bottle feeding tip gives advice about NOT cutting nipples to speed up milk flow. Feeders are encouraged to check and, as needed, open the air vent hole to allow easy milk flow.

It is available HERE in English and HERE in Spanish.

If this helps with the problem of cutting nipples please drop me a note at smleadley@yahoo.com.

Colostrum: Lowering a High Coliform Bacteria Count
 A Case Study

This is a new post at the www.calffacts.com web site. Click HERE to go to the post.

The key points:

High coliform bacteria counts in colostrum should not be normal. 
 It is possible to feed colostrum with low coliform bacteria counts. 
 Efforts to reduce coliform bacteria counts in colostrum must be a team effort – everyone has      to buy into the goal of clean colostrum. 
 It is most cost effective to focus on key critical control points: 1. Clean teats on fresh cows 2.       Clean collection equipment 3. Feed quickly or cool rapidly for stored colostrum 4. Clean              feeding equipment 
 Monitor, monitor, monitor with sampling and lab cultures.

Enjoy the pictures of the floating thermometer and ice jug floating in a bucket of colostrum.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Weaning with Less Stess

This is the title of a new posting in the calf management resource library at www.calffacts.com. Click HERE to go to the posting.

The main points are:

  • Weaning stress can be managed.
  • Weaning is less stressful when calves meet three criteria for rumen maturity.
  • Grain pail management and daily observation for the weaning-ready calves is the key in assessing duration and regularity of grain intake.
  • We often underestimate the volume of calf starter grain needed to adequately meet a calf’s needs for both maintenance and to continue to grow 1.7 to 2 lbs./day.

Friday, November 10, 2017

When to Test for Passive Immunity in Calves

This is a new post in the Calf Facts resource library. Click HERE to visit.

The main points are:
  • ·        Exposure rates are likely to be high.
  • ·        Don’t fall behind – reduce exposure of newborn and older calves.
  • ·        Managing infections – building immunity.
  • ·        Preclinical use of the additives is recommended.
  • ·        Tips for reducing severity of clinical infections.
   You may also want to look at the resource "Passive Transfer: How to Test For" at this location - click HERE.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Don't Fall Behind with Coccidiosis

The November 2017 issue of the calf management newsletter has these main points:
  • Exposure rates are likely to be high.
  • Don't fall behind - reduce exposure of newborn and older calves.
  • Managing infections - building immunity.
  • Preclinical use of the additives (medications) is recommended.
  • Tips for reducing severity of clinical infections.
The link at www.atticacows.com or www.calffacts.com is HERE.
The URL if you need to paste into your browser is

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Training Employees to Follow Protocols: A Checklist

This is the title of a newly edited post in the Metric Calf Facts section. 

The key points :

1. Focus on just one skill
2. Keep training short
3. Train on location
4. Demonstrate the skill
5. Practice the skill
6. Evaluate performance

To get there you can go to www.atticacows.com and click on Resources. Click on Calf Facts Resource Library, click on Metric Calf Facts.

The direct link to this resource is HERE.