Saturday, June 13, 2020

New newsletter: 
Making Your Calf Care Team More Robust

 The latest issue of the calf management newsletter is now posted at


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hot Weather Calf Care Tips

As the official beginning of the northern hemisphere summer gets closer, we need to think through our calf care strategies to limit heat stress effects.

Visit the fact sheet in the calf management resource library, " Hot Weather Calf Care Tips", just two pages of practical daily practices that can be used to make things easier on the calves.


Monday, June 8, 2020

Calf Management, behavior and Welfare Webinar
July 13, Noon Central time

To register, visit

Prof Emily Miller-Cushon from the University of Florida will be the presenter.

Dairy calf care broadly affects behavior, including social interactions and feeding patterns, which impact calf performance and welfare. Miller-Cushon will discuss how early life experiences further influence development behaviors that persist beyond the preweaning period.


Friday, June 5, 2020

Old Standards and New Standards for Passive Transfer

Just for review the old standards used since the 1980's to define "successful" passive transfer have been5.2 grams per deciliter (g/dl) or10 grams per liter (g/l).

In a talk given to the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, Jason Lumbard DVM with USDA-APHIS reviewed a new set of proposed standards. 

Categories     IgG Levels           Total Protein          Equivalent Brix          Proposed % of Calves
                      (g.L)                     levels (g/dL)          levels%                       in each category

Excellent       Greater than or     Greater than or       Greater than or          Greater than
                      equal to 25.0         equal to 6.2            equal to 9.4               40%

Good             18.0 to 24.9          5.8 to 6.1                 8.9 to 9.3                  Approximately 30%

Fair               10.0 to 17.9          5.1 to 5.7                 8.1  to 8.8                 Approximately 20%

Poor               Less than 10.0     Less than 5.1          Less than 8.1            Less than 10%

These certainly are challenging if you only standard has been 5.0 or higher for success. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

More on Volume of Hay Fed Post Weaning

All of us have gotten the message about not overfeeding hay at the time of weaning. A research group at Penn State University set out to calibrate the percentage of hay in the ration that would give the best average daily gains. Rations varied from percentage of dry grass hay included from a low of  10 percent to increasing amounts of 17.5% to 25%. The work was done by Lucas Mitchell under the supervision of Jud Heinrichs.

Monitoring these heifers from 9 to 16 weeks of age they found as the percentage of grass hay increased the average daily gain, intake and metabolizable energy intake went down. More hay equals poorer performance.

Take home message: "Levels of grass hay greater than 10% may reduce intake and growth before 16 weeks of age. Too much forage to soon can limit intake and performance."

Monday, June 1, 2020

Don't Wait to Feed Water

The 2020 version of the United States FARM minimum standards for calf care call for water feeding for newborn calves by day 3. 

Recent research looked at the question of how early water feeding makes a difference in the digestive system of very young calves. The work done at Iowa State Univ. compared the species of bacteria present in the gut between calves offer water at birth and those offered water at 17 days.

Digestibility was better in the calves fed water at birth compared to those that waited until 17 days for water feeding. Additionally, even out to 5 months of age early-water fed calves compared to those with delayed water feeding had a 24 pound (11kg) growth advantage (440 lbs. vs. 416 lbs, 199.5kg vs 188.7kg)

With my own calves I fed 1 quart (about 1 liter) of fresh water after both morning and evening feeding. It's hard to recall exactly, but if my memory is accurate some of the calves were regularly consuming an observable volume of water by the end of the first week. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Keep Vaccines Cool This Summer

"Temperature influences the efficacy of some pharmaceutials" says Maureen Hanson in a recent issue of Dairy Herd Management (May/June 2020, p 24)

It the job of the calf care persons to manage the environment for the vaccines that play an important role in preventing disease in the herd's calves. 

Suggestions included in this brief review reflect the industry recommendation to keep vaccines in the temperature range of 35 and 45 F. (1.7-7.2 C).

How to do this:

Suggestions are:
1. Monitor their temperature before use - while in storage. A study in Idaho found that only 35 % of refrigerators checked on-farm stayed in the 35-45F range 95% of the time! Only a third! I would say it is time to buy a thermometer for the refrigerator if you do not already have one.

2. Keep vaccines cool while you are using them
In practice I always used a cooler with an ice pack in the bottom when carrying vaccines in hot weather. Once on site, I only mixed one bottle at a time, gave injections, came back and mixed another bottle. 

Let me share a story about a dairy that complained that their vaccines were not working (in the summer). I arrived shortly before noon on a hot summer day - it was already 90F. Two workers were ready to start giving injections. All four bottles of vaccine had been mixed and were ready to go - sitting along with the syringes on the hot tailgate of the pickup truck. No cooler, no way to keep vaccines cool from the time they came out of the refrigerator back at the utility room. Syringes were hot to the touch.

My recommendations were:
1. Change the time of day for vaccinating. I would prefer vaccinating very early morning (between 5 and 6 am) when calf body temperature is lowest. The highest calf body temperature will occur regularly around 5 pm so that is the time to be sure to avoid.

2. Put all vaccines in a cooler avoiding direct contact with ice (don't want to freeze them) and keep them there until they are ready to use.

3. Only mix as much vaccine that can be used in 15-20 minutes - especially under hot environmental conditions. 

4. Keeping the syringes in a cooler will help, too. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Quick! What's "Normal" for a calf's
1. temperature 2. respiration rate 3. heart rate?

This little quiz is aimed at making us think for a momment, "Just what do I consider "normal" for my calves?

In a brief article, "Know a calf's vital signs," Maureen Hanson summarized these numbers for us (Dairy Herd magazine, April 2020, p22).

100 to 102.5 F rectal - digital thermometers are in common use now. 

36-60 breaths per minute - just watching the rise and fall of the body cavity.

100-140 beats per minute.  "Easily accessible arteries are located at the base of the tail and under the jaw. Keep in mind heart rate will increase when calves are moved or otherwise highly active, so attempt to measure resting heart rate for an accurate assessment."

Did you remember all three "normal" rates?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Solve the Problem of Pneumonia among Young Calves

A conversation with a calf care person highlighted their problem with pneumonia among calves less than 10 days old. I asked them to bring the nipples they were using to feed colostrum and any other bottle fed milk.

Do you know what I found? Every one, yes every one of the nipple openings had been sliced open with a knife. This a common solution to the problem of too-slow feeding. 

Try looking at this resource for a reason we should NOT slice open nipples and how to solve the "slow nipple" problem

or click HERE.

In espanol click HERE or enter this URL
The document is titled Espera! No se corta esa chupon!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Out of balance = sick calf

The most recent issue of the calf management newsletter is now posted online at 

The key points
  • Too many challenges and too little immunity.
  • The futile search for "THE" cause of sickness (scours, pneumonia)
  • A team approach is most likely to succeed. 
  • Links to resources on boosting immunity and suppressing pathogen expossure. 

Just a note on the prolonged lack of posting at the blog.
Our veterinary clinic closed in mid-March to everyone but the practicing DVM's. That isolated me from all my hard copy resources AND my computer. It's possible but complicated to get reliable remote access - which I now have.
In addition, after two surgeries for oral cancer (Dec. and Jan.) I had 30 sessions of radiation therapy in starting in mid-March. The doctors now say that I am cancer free but sure was tiring. 
My energy is back and I hope to post on the blog regularly. 
If you have friends that read my blog, please let that know that Calves with Sam is up and running again. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Videos: Raising Your Best Calf

Calf care and training videos on the theme " Raising Your Best Calf" are available (in English and Spanish) HERE or at the url

These videos were developed jointly by Cooperative Extension staff at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University under the leadership of Jennifer Bentley, Kim Clark and Hugo Ramirez-Ramirez.

Topics include: (video for each topic in either English or Spanish)

Newborn Calf Care: Passive Immunity
                               : Processing of Newborn Calves
                               : Harvest and Storage of Colostrum
                               : Evaluation of Colostrum Quality
                               : Recommended Colostrum Feeding Techniques
                               : Using the Esophageal Tube Feeder
                               : Evaluation of Protein Absorption from Colostrum

Hygiene: Environments for Pathogens
             : Monitoring Hygiene

Stress Handling: Introduction
                         : Flight Zone
                         : Point of Balance
                         : Newborn calf handling
                         : Heat and Cold Stress
                         : Transportation

Automatic Calf Feeders: Management
                                      : Facilities
                                      : Nutrition
                                      : Health
                                      : Cleaning and Sanitation
                                      : Summary

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Using pain mitigation when disbudding calves

This is the title of a "easy-read" article by Dr. Charlotte Winder (University of Guelph).
Paragraph headings are:
  • What drugs are effective for pain control?
  • What about sedatives?
  • Does it matter what method I use?
  • Does it matter how old the calves are?
She says the "take-home" messages are:
  • Work with your herd vet to develop disbudding protocols for your farm.
  • Ensure calves are healthy at the time of the procedure.
  • Disbud calves well ahead of weaning or moving.
  • Make sure people performing this procedure are comfortable with both administering pain control and performing disbudding.
Full article appeared in February 25, 2020 issues of Progressive Dairy, pp 60-61

The URL is
or click HERE

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Five Must Haves for Rumen Development

This is the title of a good article summarizing the basics of rumen development in young dairy replacement calves.

It is HERE or use this URL


Friday, February 21, 2020

Newborn calf immunity: How well is your Colostrum
Management program working?

The key points:
  • Test, don't guess.
  • Sampling vs. blanket blood draws.
  • Use the results.
The February calf management newsletter is now posted at 
or click HERE

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"More colostrum is helpful, but don't force it"

This is the title of a short article, actually the "Veterinary Column" in the February 25 issue of Hoard's Dairyman magazine by Dr. Ollivett, University of Wisconsin.

Terry was responding to a question about the volume of colostrum to feed calves. If you receive this magazine you will want to go to the very back page of this Feb 25 issue. She has sound practical advice. 

I tried to find a way to access this column via the web without success. So, if you do not receive Hoard's maybe you can borrow it from a neighboring dairy.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 6 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click  HERE     to go to Number 6 - Sanitation

All six of the series have now been posted at the Calf Management site on
Go to the site, select the RESOURCES drop down menu, chose Calf Management Newsletter for all six in the series. 


Friday, February 14, 2020

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 5 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click  HERE     to go to Number 5 - Vaccination

Part six will be posted on Monday, February 17th.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 4 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click   HERE  to go to Number 4 Air Quality or use URL

They will be posted daily.

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 3 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click HERE to go to Number 3 - Bedding

They will be posted daily.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 2 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click HERE to go to Number 2 - Calories
The URL is

They will be posted daily.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Calves and Bicycle Wheels
Number 1 of a six-part series on calf health

This is a fun series on calf health. Click HERE to go to Number 1 - Colostrum.
The URL is

They will be posted daily.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Three Colostrum Myths Debunked

This is the title of an article by Sarah Morrison from the W.H. Miner Institute (see URL below)

The three myths are:
  • High volume means low quality.
  • First calf heifer colostrum should not be used.
  • Route of administration determines absorption rate.
Enjoy - well written article. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Newborn Care - Video by Ann Hoskins

Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus, produced a short video showing the procedures followed for newborn calves on a Wisconsin dairy. Good narrative - good video - worth your 5 minutes to be reminded of the basics. 

Here is the url


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Pneumonia - Why?

The URL below is to an article about pneumonia - the title explains the content. It contain several really good graphics and a picture that are well work viewing.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

How Much Calf Starter is Needed to 
Meet Maintenance Demands?

I just read a recommendation in a popular dairy magazine that recommended weaning calves as soon as they have reached a calf starter intake level of 2-3 pounds a day.

The name for this recommendation is STARVATION! 

Let's take a second to look at the facts.

Assume you have done a good job preweaning and the heifer calf has doubled her birth weight by 56 days - 90lbs to 180lbs. At this age she has been gaining about 2 pounds a day.

Feeding a 18%cp calf starter grain how much weight is this weaned heifer calf going to gain per day at these concentrate consumption levels? ("as-fed" starter grain weights)

Summer (60F or greater)           Cold Weather (around freezing)
Pounds per day                           Pounds per day
Eaten     Estimated Gain             Eaten          Estimated Gain
2#          Weight Loss                  2#               Weight Loss
3#           1/2 pound gain             3#               Weight Loss
4#           1 pound                        4#                0.3 pound gain
5#           1.5 pounds                   5#                 0.9 pounds

Want to set up just-weaned heifers for pneumonia? Follow this recommendation to fully wean when eating 2-3 pounds starter per day.

Hey! Sam's Back!

Cancer surgery went well! I'm back on my feet (well, chair in front of computer) and my fingers seem to be connected to my brain so keyboarding is going well. Don't try to keyboard too soon after anesthesia and on pain meds - bad, bad, bad!

Thanks for hanging in there with me - I hope to have lots more fun in the coming weeks.

Monday, January 13, 2020

"Feed for More Than Maintenance"
January 2020 calf mgt newsletter

The primary points in this newsletter:
  • ·         Maintenance = keep core body temperature at 101°F, replace cells, eat and breathe.
  • ·         Growth = make new cells to support immunity and get bigger.
  • ·        For our youngest calves, as environmental temperatures fall below 60°F they burn energy to maintain core body temperature – see bar chart on page one.
  • ·          In order to improve immunity to replace protection from colostrum, our youngest calves need lots of energy beyond maintenance.
     Or, click HERE.

Sam's Away, Again!

I was off between December 23 and January 6 due to surgery to remove a cancerous lesion on my tongue. Surgery was successful - 100% gone - Doctor-speak = clean margins. I am so thankful to be healed enough to eat soft solid foods rather than clear fluids. Yeah!

Thank you so much for all the folks that logged in on Jan 6-7 to check on me.

I am going to be off again between January 14 and Jan 23-24 for follow-up surgery to remove some lymph nodes in my neck - this will confirm that the cancer did not spread from my tongue.

Again, please do your homework and send an e-mail to with ideas for future blogs. 
Another Checklist
"Herd Health Plan Checklist"

This checklist is from, a veal-oriented site but nevertheless a site with good advice. 

It has 11 items including protocols, staff training and record keeping. It may not apply 100% to your operation but it might just remind you of an overlooked item.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Getting New Employees Off to a Good Start

Nearly all of us have been at some time our life a "new" employee. So much to take in those first few days!

During an interview with Brian Gerrits, CEO of Breeze Dairy Group [quoted in November 29 issue of Progressive Dairy, p 33] he was commenting on a major improvement in their dairy's human resource management program made by his daughter-in-law, Katie. He observed,

"Onboarding - A new employee's first day at work should not include any actual work. Instead, we (Breeze Dairy) dedicate that time to educate them about who we are and what's important to us. We show them around the farm and introduce them to the rest of the team. Our people are truly our most important asset . A good onboarding process results in enhanced job statisfaction and retention, improved performance and increased productivity."

So, time spent at the beginning of employment to "on-board" new workers can have significant value.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

DeHorning Guidelines from AABP

The new (2020) guidelines for dehorning from American Association of Bovine Practictitioners (AABP) are at this URL

They deal with
1. Restraint
2. Method
3. Pain Management
    *Local anesthesia
    *Systemic pain relief

Start the new year by reviewing these new guidelines with your herd veterinarian. 
Sam's Back
At least for this week!

After unscheduled cancer surgery on December 23 I am back at my desk. Lots of high fives at January 6 post-op visit in "Cancer Ward Language" - "clean margins" on the tongue surgery. I am due for follow-up lymph node surgery on Jan 14 so I will be off-line for a week or do after that.