Friday, April 26, 2019

Adding electrolytes to milk or milk replacer

This is the title of a new Calf Note, #206 (see written by Dr. Jim Quigley.

His advice is brief and to the point:
"Don't add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. Just don't."

He describes in detail the significant changes in milk/milk replacer when we add powdered electrolytes to them. Briefly, the concept of "osmolality" is involved - he has a link to Wikapedia on this topic. I like Dr. McGuirk's discussion, click HERE and scroll to page 11. She, too, discourages us from adding powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. 

His recommendation not to add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer is based on the biology of abomasal emptying. This mistake, adding powdered electrolytes to either milk or milk replacer, under appropriate conditions can set up calves to have rapid growth of toxic bacteria in the gut. Good intentions can have bad outcomes.

In spite of the manufacturer's directions that may say their powdered electrolyte product can be added to milk/milk replacer, Dr. Quigley's advice is still,

"Don't add powdered electrolytes to milk or milk replacer. Just don't."

Monday, April 22, 2019

Rumen Development in the Transition Calf

This is the title for a webinar narrated by Dr. Jud Heinrichs (Penn State Univ.). In 54 minutes Dr. Heinrichs in straight forward language will take you on a tour of developmental biology for the young dairy calf focusing on the rumen.

You will review with text and pictures the changes that take place in the rumen wall with a focus on the first 6 weeks of life. He explores the digestion of calf starters and rumen end products. Learn what is "normal" for rumen development. View stages of growth of rumen papillae.

Dr. Heinrichs explains why monitoring calf starter intake before weaning can be an important best management practice. He says that calves need to have at least 1/2 pound [200-250g] of daily calf starter intake for 21 to 28 days before weaning to insure adequate rumen development before full weaning from milk/milk replacer.

This webinar is at
or you can try the link - click HERE 

This link takes you to Penn State's dairy website - click on "Recorded" webinars, then choose "Rumen development in the Transition Calf."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Effects of Lung Consolidation on First-Lactation Milk,
Age at First Calving and Survival

Everyone knows that having respiratory illness is not good for calves. This study followed calves into their first lactation to quantify the effects of lung consolidation [that is what happens when calves have a bad case of pneumonia] on :
  1. age at first calving
  2. survival to end of first lactation
  3. first-lactation 305-d milk production
"A total of 215 female calves from 3 dairy herds in southwestern Ontario were enrolled and assessed weekly during their first 8 weeks of life for evidence of lung consolidation  using thoracic ultrasonography." They defined positive cases when the consolidated area in the lung exceeded 3cm - think of 2 1¢ coins side-by-side.

  1. age at first calving - no effect
  2. survival to end of first lactation - no effect
  3. first lactation 305-d milk production DECREASE OF 1,155 POUNDS OR 525 kg.

Reference: Dunn, T.R. and Others, "The effect of lung consolidation, as determined by ultrasonography, on first-lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science 101:5404-5410 (2018).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mixing Milk Replacer
Calf Management Newsletter for April, 2019

The main points covered:
  • Goal: High quality consistent milk replacer every feeding, every day.
  • The manufacturer knows best - follow these mixing instructions.
  • Caution: some printed instructions may not give desired results!
  • Make mixing easy for consistent results.
    • Have a written recipe
    • Use scales to measure milk replacer powder
    • Calibrate containers rather than guessing at water volume
    • Use a thermometer to get the right temperature mix
The newsletter is HERE.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Milk Sampling Procedure for Valid
Bacteria Culture Results

Just revised is the bacteria quality control sampling procedure for milk/milk replacer. Click HERE for the 1 page protocol.

Also included is the sampling protocol for bacteria quality control when feeding pasteurized milk. It is a "4-sample" set that permits valid analysis of sanitation issues including the pasteurizer, transfer and feeding equipment.

Remember Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong, it will!  Quality control is a must for effective and efficient calf rearing.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Colostrum Chilling
(New pdf with pictures)

My apologies for the old version - somehow a version was posted without the two pictures. I fixed the problem and the two pictures are now posted:
1. water bath chilling method
2. immersion method. 

Click HERE for the pdf.

Assessing Calf Wellness

My associate, Noah Seward DVM, and I have been visiting calf enterprises. Our job is to assess the level of overall calf wellness for the calf enterprise. 

We are using a worksheet that scores: [worksheet is HERE]
1. Calf Health
2. Calf Housing
3. Freshening Facilities
4. Passive Transfer of Immunity
5. Colostrum Culture Results

We use Dr. McGuirk's observation protocol when assessing respiratory risk [HERE].

The observation protocol guide is HERE.

The ideal procedure for visiting is having a regular schedule of visits - every month, quarterly.Then we post the results in a spreadsheet hopefully showing improvements over time. 

For the past three years we have been supplementing this worksheet with sanitation observations using a luminometer [see HERE for luminometer resource or the URL is 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Checking Water Temperatures

I am always looking for innovative ways to accomplish simple tasks in calf enterprises. This small file of 4 pictures shows how innovative calf care folks can be. 

Click HERE to go there. The URL is 

I was especially impressed by one person that used a small square of styrofoam and a rapid read thermometer to display the temperature of her wash water as she was cleaning milk feeding equipment.

For those of  us that wear glasses (they fog up when you come into a warm room in cold weather so I take off mine when washing up) I might mention that if you use a black tag pen to mark 120 on the rapid read thermometer dial you can still see if your wash water is warm enough.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Early Signs of a Sick Calf

This is the title of an article by Sarah Morrison (The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, New York) published in their April issue of their Farm Report. 
I think if you click on this link you will get the full report and the article is on page 4. Click HERE
It may be helpful to know when reading her notes that they raise calves in hutches in a very cold northernern New York State environment just south of the US/Canadian border.

Sarah says, "Look for the signs:"
1. Slower intake
2. Refusing milk or milk replacer
3. Fecal consistency
4. Look at the eyes and skin tent test

She says,
"The goal would be to be proactive about calves that are at risk of developing dehydration."