Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why Differences in Starter Grain Consumption Among Limit-Fed Calves?

"How much starter grain should a pre-weaned dairy calf be eating?' That is title of a Washington State University Extension publication (Dr. Dale Moore, A. Adams-Progar, W.M. Sischo). They tracked starter grain intake for 90 calves on each of 3 calf ranches in Washington state.

They asked the question, "Why differences in starter grain consumption?" 

 1. Different levels of milk/milk replacer feeding. There were not wide differences among the 3 ranches in milk feeding levels - they were all limit-fed. At this level of milk feeding it took about 2 weeks for intakes to get up to 1 cup per day on all 3 ranches. So, this question was not really investigated in this research. 

My reading of other research findings suggest that when feeding rates of 4 quarts of 20/20 milk replacer (12.5%solids) daily are compared to 8 quarts of the same product daily both age at initial grain intake and subsequent level of consumption are delayed at the higher feeding rate.

At the time I was caring for 100 calves on milk I subscribed to the idea that calves need to be eating some calf starter grain for about 3 weeks before I began to cut back on their milk ration. I still think that Heinrich's work at Penn State supports this guideline. It was this concept of rumen development turning around in my head that got me started closely watching grain intakes among the calves that  should be at the "start eating grain" age. 

My own calves fed at the lowest rate (4 qts daily) averaged about 7-12 days for initial intake (1 cup per day) compared to the highest rate (8 qts = 2.2 pounds of m.r. powder daily) averaged in the range of 15-21 days for initial intake.

My most important observation from my own calves was the very wide variation among calves drinking the same volume of milk replacer for age at initial grain intake. Among the intensive-feeding program calves there were as much at 10 days or more differences on initial intake ages. Stated a different way, once I began tracking grain intakes about 20% of them turned out to be what I called "laggards" - slow to begin eating grain.

I began dumping and refreshing grain for all these young calves daily until they began to eat it. Then, when they cleaned up a generous cupful of grain several days in a row I snapped a tag to their hutch - that told us we could start the 3-week count-down for beginning the weaning process.

What's the problem with using this 3-week guideline? In my consulting practice between 2000 and 2018 I have not found many calf managers willing to spend time monitoring calf starter grain intakes. The dominant pattern is to dump a quart or more calf starter grain in a pail when the calf goes into the pen or hutch. Then, just leave it there until it disappears in the next 2 or 3 weeks. So much for grain pail management - that kind of benign neglect is non-management in my opinion,

2. Different levels of gastro-intestinal health - either scours or not scours. This is the unique finding for this research report. 

This research found significant differences among the 3 ranches in the percent of calves with diarrhea by day of age. For example, at 12 days of age one ranch had 38% of calves treated for scours while for comparison another ranch was only treating 4%.

The study authors conclude, "The percent of calves with diarrhea could explain about 42% to 51% of the variation in average daily starter grain consumption." (p4)

Rather than grain intakes continuing to climb day-by-day, it appears from the graphs shown in the publication when calves don't feel well (that is, suffer from scours) their intakes flat-line for 3 to 5 days.

This drop in grain intake is valuable information for calf management.
What would I like to see calf managers do when they spot this "flat-line" of grain intake for a calf?

1. Dump those grain pails every day, add a handful of fresh grain.
2. Spend a little extra time to watch these at-risk sick girls.

If you  have many, many calves mark or flag these "at-risk" pens or hutches. They need extra daily attention in case this gastro-intestinal upset slides into a case of treatable respiratory illness.

Reference: To access this publication click HERE or paste this URL in your web browser  [accessed 5/21/2018]

Friday, May 25, 2018

Bacterial Regrowth and Sanitizing

None of  us create sterile equipment when we clean up from feeding colostrum, milk and milk replacer. Some bacteria remain on these surfaces. Regrowth is inevitable even when we try to suppress it with acid rinses and allowing equipment to air dry. 

In a recent article, "How to properly sanitize calf facilities," Drs. Ollivett and Sockett (Univ. Wisc.) comment on the need to sanitize calf equipment before using it to feed calves. 

"All colostrum and milk or milk replacer feeding equipment should be properly cleaned after use and sanitized not more than two hours prior to use." p73.

We all understand the part about "properly cleaned after use" - the most efficient way to minimize biofilms on buckets and bottles is to clean them ASAP after every single use. Click HERE for a practical on-farm 4-step cleaning protocol. 

What about their recommendation,
"and sanitized not more than two hours prior to use" [emphasis added]

Let's assume that we do a good job of brushing our bottles, nipples and tube feeder in a hot detergent solution, put them through an acid rinse and put them upside down on a rack to air dry until the next use - most likely to be more than two hours later.

How urgent is the need to sanitize them before the next use? 

Colostrum feeding - I felt pretty strongly about minimizing bacteria load for colostrum. I rinsed all my bottles, nipples and tube feeder with a strong bleach solution every single time before colostrum feeding.  No exceptions. All the evidence I have seen in the past decade or so emphasizes the need to feed clean colostrum.

Milk feeding - I was fairly lax about sanitizing bottles for milk-fed calves - the bottles were washed  after every use and put on a rack to drain and dry between feedings. At feeding time my nursing bottle nipples were carried in a 10-quart bucket filled with a strong bleach solution. We only bottle-fed calves until they could be bucket trained so there were not a lot of calves fed with bottles. Looking back it would not have been difficult to sanitize the few bottles - it just did not occur to me to do it. 

Milk feeding all calves with bottles - depending on the potential for bacterial regrowth many calf operations likely could benefit from a pre-use sanitizing rinse. This would depend on (1) how effective is the washing process, (2) is there an acid rinse to lower surface pH, and (3) do the bottles air dry between uses.

Milk feeding calves with buckets - buckets not washed between feedings is common - my calf consulting observations suggest that washing and sanitizing all the buckets is not going to happen when there are 100, 500 or 5,000 calves on milk. Nevertheless, where there are serious issues with scours among 7 to 14 day old calves I have seen cases where using a clean bucket (not sanitized) for every feeding for these youngest calves has led to a significant reduction in treatable scours.

I cannot recall a well-designed study that examined the hypothesis that sanitizing buckets before each milk feeding will improve calf health, feed efficiency and rate of growth among preweaned calves as compared to non-sanitized buckets.  I would really like to see an analysis that shows the extent that sanitation of all feeding equipment for all age calves has a positive cost effective value.

Refererence: T. Ollivett and Donald Sockett, " How to properly sanitize calf facilities." Progressive Dairyman, May 7, 2018, pp 73-74. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Normal" time for navel cord detachment?

I have to admit that I have not paid much attention to when navel cords detach or fall off. However, an excessively short or long time for retention possibly could be a signal that something is wrong.

In a study about navel dips 67 Holstein heifer calves with unassisted births were observed (general health, umbilical infections, umbilical cord diameter) for about 22 days. 

What did they find regarding umbilical cord detachment?

Earliest detachment was between 12 and 13 days.

Latest detachment was between 20 and 22 days.

So, I am guessing we should start looking for cords to start falling off just short of two weeks and all of them to have fallen off just over three weeks of age. 

I occurs to me today that a cord missing in the range of 5 to 7 days should trigger an examination - maybe an abcess?

A cord that is still there at 4 weeks of age? On one hand I cannot recall one on a calf that old. On the other hand I guess that is possible - maybe cause to take a look at this "abnormal" situation. 

Reference: Fordyce, A. L. and Others, "The effect of novel antiseptic compounds on umbilical cord healing and incidence of infection in dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:"5444-5448

Monday, May 21, 2018

Electrolytes for dairy calves and Alkalizing Agents

In a summary Hoard's Dairyman article about calf electrolytes Geof Smith, D.V.M., recently discussed the role of alkalizing agents for raising blood pH.

He summarized the problem:
"The blood in virtually all calves with diarrhea becomes more acidic a the pH falls. This largely is responsible for the symptoms we see such as depression, loss of suckle reflect, inability to stand, and so forth."

In describing solutions to this problem he continued,
"Acetate, propionate, and bicarbonate are all considered alkalizing agents - meaning they work to raise the pH of the blood."

In his opinion, research shows considerable advantages to using acetate or propionate as alkalizing agents in calf electrolytes compared to bicarbonates.

He summarized by saying at the end of his comparison of three different agents,
"It is still critical that your oral electrolyte solution contain an alkalizing agent. ... Make sure the label of the oral electrolyte product you are using include either acetate or bicarbonate in the ingredient list."

A more general look at calf illness in this resource:
"What hits calves when ... Here's a look at the bacteria and viruses that affect our calves" by Robert Moeller, D.V. M.
Click Hoards Moeller or paste this URL in your browser

Reference: Geof Smith, "Choosing the right electrolyte." Hoard's Dairyman, April 10, 2018, p219

Friday, May 18, 2018

Buy a New Brush?

Buy a new brush? This one is not worn out yet!

In a recent calf management note, "How to properly sanitize calf facilities." Drs. Ollivett and Sockett (Univ. Wisconsin) commented on bottle, nipple and bucket brushes. 

"Bottle, nipple and bucket brushes should be hung for proper drying." This sure sounds like good advice. Bacterial regrowth is minimal on dry surfaces. 

I had a hanger mounted on the wall next to my wash sink that made it easy to do this. And, these brushes were right at hand when I needed them. 

"brushes should be ... replaced monthly or quarterly, depending on the frequency of  use." (p73)

"Depending on frequency of use" - Well, I had 100 calves on milk, I washed 50-70 feeding pails a day, all the bottles and nipples used to feed the youngest calves and colostrum, tube feeders, milk replacer mixing barrels, etc. I felt that my brushes got a lot of use every day. 

Nevertheless, I cannot recall  having a schedule to replace brushes. I must have replaced my brushes when they began to show signs of wear - maybe 2 or 3 times a year? 

We had a tendency of other dairy farm workers to stop by the calf barn to help themselves to my brushes when they needed one. Because of this I recall replacing "missing" brushes more often than getting new ones because the older ones were worn out.

However, as calf consultant I have seen some pretty well worn out brushes that really, really needed to be replaced. 

The main point I gleaned from Drs. Ollivett's and Sockett's note was that brushes are important.

Do you recall the second step in my washing equipment protocol? Click HERE for the whole protocol.

Use hot water. Add liquid detergent and bleach or a dry chlorinated detergent. Brush all surfaces. Scrub off remaining milk residue.  Keep water above 120° (49C) at all times.

Note the "Brush all surfaces" - scrubbing with a brush is the only way to get equipment clean when manual washing. 

Refererence: T. Ollivett and Donald Sockett, " How to properly sanitize calf facilities." Progressive Dairyman, May 7, 2018, pp 73-74. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Blood Sampling for Blood Serum Total Protein testing

"When it comes to on-farm calf management, the producer’s main goal is to have healthy, productive calves that will eventually become high-producing cows. To achieve this goal, certain techniques should be used on farm to ensure the calf can reach its full potential. In this issue of The Colostrum Counsel, producers can learn how to assess the quality of colostrum using a Brix refractometer, as well as how to blood sample young calves." I believe much of the content is from an Alta Genetic source.

SCCL publishes the "Colostrum Counsel" periodically - this issue contains picture guides for both refractometer use and blood sampling - very well done. 

Click HERE to go to the Colostrum Counsel publication.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Feeding Water to Calves

"Feeding Water to Calves" is the title of the May issue of the calf management newsletter. You may access this issue by clicking HERE or enter this URL in your browser

The key points are: 
  • Water as a nutrient comes in more than one form.
  • But, where does water go inside the calf?
  • Profitable rates of rumen development depend on water.
  • Tips for promoting water intake.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Calves Absorbing Sodium from Electrolytes

In a summary article about calf electrolytes Geof Smith, D.V.M., recently outlined facts about sodium absorption in preweaned calves suffering from diarrhea. 

"The calf must be able to absorb the sodium that you provide. Even in calves that have diarrhea and intestinal damage, there are three major pathways for sodium absoption: glucose, volatile fatty acids (such as acetate or proprionate), and neutral amino acids (such as glycine)."

He points out that you can check your electrolyte label for glycine or acetate.

Of the three electrolytes we stock here at the vet clinic all three contain glycine and one contains both glycine and acetate.

An interesting article, "Keeping Ahead of Calf Diarrhea" by David Rhoda, D.V. M. is available by clicking Hoards-Rhoda or adding this URL to your browser 
Reference: Geof Smith, "Choosing the right electrolyte." Hoard's Dairyman, April 10, 2018, p219

Monday, May 7, 2018

Requirements for an Effective Electrolyte for Calves

In a summary article about calf electrolytes Geof Smith, D.V.M., recently outlined four requirement for effective electrolytes:
" 1. Supply enough sodium to rehydrate the calf.
2. Provide glycine or acetate to help with the absorption of sodium in the intenstine.
3. Provide an alkalizing agent that wll correct the drop in blood pH (acidosis) that happens when calves develop diarrhea.
4. Provide energy, as most calves with diarrhea are in a state of negative energy balance."

A useful guide on scours (diarrhea) management in calves may be found here Scours - Hoards or use this URL in your browser 

Reference: Geof Smith, "Choosing the right electrolyte." Hoard's Dairyman, April 10, 2018, p219

Friday, May 4, 2018

Temperature of Colostrum

It seems so simple. Feed colostrum at calf body temperature (103F, 30C). 

Why bother with temperature? When the temperature is significantly below calf body temperature the rate of abomasal emptying is depresssed. Cold colostrum sits in the abomasum longer than it should and this lowers the rate of antibody transfer into the blood. Not good. 

Adding a simple probe-Taylor Precision Products Anti-Microbial Instant Read Thermometer (1-Inch Dial)type rapid-read thermometer to your tool kit (about $6-10) can make monitoring feeding temperature simple.
It' easy - fill nursing bottle with cold colostrum, put on the nipple, stick probe through the vent hole.

If you, like me, has to wear glasses in order to read the dial it may help to use a tag pen to make are mark at 103F so it is easy to read without one's glasses. 

Reference: Mokhber-Dezfooli, M.R. and Others, "Effect of abomasal emptying rate on the apparent efficiency of colostrum immunoglobulin G absorption in neonatal Holstein-Friesian calves." Journal of Dairy Science 95:6740-6749

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Weaning Age and Intensive Milk Feeding Programs

Field experience and research trials have demonstrated the effect of intensive milk feeding programs for dairy replacement heifer calves on the timing of calf starter grain intake. As milk intake goes up the starter grain intake is delayed.

The research reported here looked at delaying weaning of intensively milk fed calves from 60 to 75 days.  The intensive program for calves weaned at 60 days was 4 liters/day on days 3-10, 6 liters/day on days 11-20, 8.5 liters/day on days 21-55, decreased to 4/25 liters/day on days 56-60 (total of 411 liters).

The intensive program for calves weaned at 75 days was 4 liters/day on days 3-10, increased to 6 liters/day on days 11-70, decreased to 3 liters/day on days 71/75 (total 407 liters).

They compared these groups using these measures at 90 days:
Average daily gain
Feed efficiency
Final body weight

The 75-day weaned heifers when compared to the the 60-day weaned heifers were  higher on all three comparison measures.

In my reading of these results I see the advantage of getting more adequate rumen development in the 75-day heifers. This is one of the first studies I can recall that compared feed efficiency. However, few dairies will wait to wean at 75 days. 

A practical alternative would be to modify their 60-day protocol to look like this:
4 L/day on days 3-10
6 L/day on days 11-14
8 L/day on days 15-35
4 L/day on days 36-60

In order to save labor I fed the 4 L/day on days 36-60 once a day, with free choice water and calf starter grain.

My experience with this protocol regarding starter grain intake was initial grain intake greater than 1 cup (110-115g) daily did not start until about 21 days. With high milk feeding the grain intake stayed low until I dropped the milk back to 4 L/d at 36 days - then the calves had a steady upward trend on grain intake until they were eating 4-5 pounds (2-2.25kg) a day by 60 days.

Reference: M. Mirzael and Others, "Effects of preweaning total plane of milk intake and weaning age on intake, growth performance, and blood metabolites of dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:4212-4220 May 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hay for Preweaned Calves

An interesting article in the Irish Farmers Journal, "Dairy Calf to Beef: Rearing Tips," included some advice regarding providing fiber for preweaned calves. 

Recall in this Irish tradition that dairymen have "always" fed straw to preweaned calves. In my experience this traditionally was fed a long straw in a rack in a group pen. 

The initial mention is in the context of housing:

"Calves should be housed on a clean, dry bed of straw and they should have access to a good fibre source like hay or straw and also have access to fresh clean water."

The author concludes:

"Hay and straw. A good fibre source like hay or straw should be made available to calves from three days of age. While feeding hay and straw is important, it's also important not to over consume roughage with a resultant decrease in concentrate intake. 

Chopped forage 3-4cm (1-1.5 inches) in length is ideal. Quality is also important as poor-quality, stemmy material will result in poor intakes and calves not being able to digest it."

[Emphasis added, ed.]

Reference: Wood, Adam "Dairy Calf to Beef: Rearing Tips" Irish Farmers Journal 28April2018 page 40