Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Biosecurity for Calves: 5 Ways to Improve

The August issue of the calf management newsletter is now available at 

The 5 ways to improve biosecurity are:
·       No. 1 Buy separate boots for the calf facility.
·       No. 2 Make it easy and convenient to wear disposable gloves.
·       No. 3 Bleach everything.
·       No. 4 Segregate sick calves where possible.
·       No. 5 Restrict visitor access.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Water Intake of Calves Fed
Conventional vs. Accelerated Rates of Milk Replacer

Will calves fed at accelerated rates of milk replacer drink more or less water when compared to calves fed milk replacer at conventional rates?

A feeding trial with calves fed ad lib water and calf starter grain starting on day 3 in addition to their milk replacer ration made this comparison.

Throughout the five weeks of the trial the calves on the accelerated milk replacer ration drank more water than those on the conventional ration. For example, during week 3 of the trial the conventional calves averaged 27 ounces (.84 qts.) per day while those on the accelerated milk replacer ration averaged 68 ounces (2.1 qts).

Take a look at the chart showing the water consumption over the 5 weeks of the trial. Paste the URL below in your browser

or click HERE.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Need a "Checklist" for a Calf Job?

Sometimes a quick "checklist" helps us touch all the bases when doing a calf-related job.

For a summary of all the checklists at the website, type the word checklist in the upper right-hand corner search box.

I got 94 hits. A quick scan shows that about 1/2 of them are duplicates. There is a good chance you will find a checklist that meets your needs.

More focused searching?
By adding "protocol" to the search I reduced the hits to 60.
By adding "colostrum" to the search I reduced the hits to 54.
By adding "pneumonia" to the search I reduced the hits to 8.

Enjoy your checklist.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Transition Milk - It's Value for Immunity

Based on a sample of 75 Holstein-Friesian cows (pasture-based dairy Ireland, 2nd lactation and greater)  samples were collected for the first 5 milkings after colostrum was harvested.

This is how the transition milk samples compared to colostrum (remember we want a refractometer value of 23 or greater or IgG concentration of 50 or greater for first feeding):

Sample   No.Samples              Median                      Median
                                         Brix refractometer (%)    IgG Concentration(g//L)
Colostrum   68                         25.6                              99.6
T#1             63                         17.8                              43.5
T#2             61                         12.6                              12.5
T#3             59                         11.8                                5.3
T#4             53                         11.4                                1.9
T#5             41                         11.2                                1.8

Colostrum was great stuff - use for first feeding.

First transition milking (T#1) - Still pretty strong for immunity - use for second feeding. In a pinch, this could be used for first feeding. Refractometer does a good job evaluating for immunity potential. And, for localized immunity in the gut for the first week of life this milking has great potential.

Second transition milking (T#2) - to be fed anytime during the first week of life to promote localized immunity in the gut.

3rd - 5th transition milking - not going to confer a great deal in localize immunity in the gut but super for nutritional value - still higher in solids than market milk and packs a nice extra energy boost from higher milk fat content. Refractometer readings less reliable at these low IgG concentrations compared to colostrum.

Reference: Rayburn, M.C. and Others, "Use of a digital refractometer in assessing immunoglobulin G concentrations in colostrum and the first 5 transition milkings in an Irish dairy herd." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7459-7463 August 2019.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Failure of Passive Transfer

Inadequate transfer of antibodies from the dam's colostrum into the calf's blood is a failure of passive transfer. 

While the process is biologically determined how well the transfer takes place on modern dairies is determined by how well humans manage harvest, manage and feed colostrum to newborn calves.

A recently reported study of calves in California dairies shows how widely these success rates can vary.

Dairy     Percent Calf     Blood Serum Total 
              Mortality          Protein (Average)
#1            3%                      6.4
#2            6%                      6.2
#3            7%                      6.2
#4           28%                     5.5
#5           39%                     5.7 (huge variation here from high to low BSTP so the average here
                                                   hides many, many calves with very low BSTP)

What we do as calf enterprise managers makes a difference.
These three words describe the foundation of colostrum management and all three of them depend on calf care personnel.

Reference: Dubrovsky, S.A. and Others "Bovine respiratory (BRD) cause-specific and overall mortality in preweaned calves on California dairies: The BRD 10K Study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7620-7328 August 2019.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Reminder About Twin Heifers

Just a reminder about the need to give our twin heifer calves a little special attention.

Recent work involving 11,470 calves from 5 California dairies followed calves from birth through weaning. When considering calves that died (mortality) the overall mortality rates varied from 1.1 percent to 7.2 percent.

Specifically, twin heifer calves were found to have a 1.7 times greater risk of dying compared to singleton calves. These findings were similar to previous studies as well. 

What is a manager to do? 
1. Identify twin calves - if the calf care workers do not see the calves born have the maternity workers mark twins (for example, using a paint stick place a "T" on the calves' forehead).

2. Place a reminder on the housing for twins (for example, a cow leg band) - make it easy to remember that these calves need to have a little extra attention especially during the first month of life. 

3. As weaning approaches provide the opportunity for an extra week or two of the milk ration for twins if they are significantly smaller that other calves the same age. Delaying moving into transition calf pens may provide them an opportunity to compete for feed and space with less risk of pneumonia.

Reference: Dubrovsky, S.A. and Others "Bovine respiratory (BRD) cause-specific and overall mortality in preweaned calves on California dairies: The BRD 10K Study." Journal of Dairy Science 102:7620-7328 August 2019.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Spanish Language Calf Management Resources

Did you know that there are fourteen Spanish Language calf management resources at the website?

You go to and scroll down to SPANISH and they are all grouped together. Their equivalent resource in English is listed alphabetically in this same library (e.g., Lavando los recipientes de la leche appears as Washing Milk Containers). 


Friday, July 12, 2019

Pneumonia in Calves
Aspirating Liquids

When faced with a pneumonia challenge among young calves it is good to remember the role of aspirating liquids when trouble shooting.

I wrote a special resource sheet advising calf feeders NOT to cut nipples when frustrated with too slow bottle feeding. It also contains alternative steps to take when faced with this issue.

In SPANISH go to this location:
or just click HERE,

In ENGLISH go to this location: 
or just click HERE

If you think that cutting nipples does not happen on your dairy I suggest checking the nipples in your utility room! I think you are in for a surprise.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

An Update on Using a Heart Girth
Tape for Estimating Calf Weights

It is useful to have estimates of heifer calf weights. In the absence of animal scales it has been established that the heart girth measurement is a reasonably accurate way to estimate body weights. Various tape designs have been used over time - 1936, 1961 and 1992. Heinrichs comments on the need for verifying the tape designs, 
"Whereas the body weight and heart girth relationship has been reliable over time, the regression equation to estimate body weight and heart girth have changed, ... most likely due to alterations in breeding and selection programs that have affected animal conformation, in additional to other traits, over time."

Thus, it was judged to time to reassess the accuracy of the 1992 design. Based on 1,498 measurements from 586 animals the authors compared heart girth with scale weights. The correlation between the actual and predicted body weight was 0.98. 

"Upon comparing the previously developed hearth girth to body weight equation with 2 independent data sets, we concluded that the previous equation converting heart girth to body weight for Holstein dairy heifers (Heinrichs, 1992) remains valid for the current genetics and type of Holstein dairy heifers."

Keep using the tape you have for Holstein dairy calves. Remember to place the tape correctly around the calf right behind the front legs. Pull tightly enough to compress hair coat but not to stretch the tape. 

Reference: Heinrichs, A. J., B.S. Heinrichs, C. M. Jones, P.S. Erickson, K.F. Kalscheur, T.D. Nennich, B.J. Heins and F.C. Cardosoll "Short Communication: Verifying Holstein heifer heart girth to body weight prediction equations." Journal of Dairy Science 100:8451-8454 (2017)

Friday, July 5, 2019

July Calf Management Newsletter
"Water - Just Do It!"

The July 2019 calf management newsletter is entitled "Water: The Magic Growth Promoter."

The main points:
  • Just do it! Make clean water available to dairy calves from Day 1!
  • Why feed water before 14 to 21 days?
  • Why feed water if calves are drinking milk/milk replacer?
  • Why feed water during freezing weather?
  • Tips for more efficient water feeding.

or click HERE.