Lessons from Sam

We can never stop learning about the most productive ways to rear our heifers and, I recently had the pleasure of listening to Sam Leadley from Attica Vets in the US give a talk in conjunction with Pro Stock Vets and Dairy Co.

Sams’ KPI of successful calf rearing, make sure the calves are:

  • Alive
  • Healthy
  • Growing

This should seem like common sense to us all? But how many people monitor the mortality rates of their heifers or weigh calves to monitor DLWG?

Sam suggests that the divide between profitable and unprofitable in the first 60 days is less than 5% mortality.  Do you know what your mortality rates are?

Farmers more than ever are now taking an increasing interest in heifer rearing, building best practice protocols and really looking at what they are getting out of their heifers in that all important first 8 week.

But what are your goals…….?

Sam Leadley suggests that farmers need to build KPIs’ for their farm, he advises the following based on his work in the US:

1st KPI: Rate of death under 5%

2nd KPI: Less than 10% of calves should be treated for respiratory problems in first 60 days to be profitable.  Less than 25% should be treated for scours

3rd KPI: Weight gain, calves should double their birth weight by 8 weeks, although there are farms in the US achieving this by 7 weeks.

Colostrum Management 
The sooner you feed colostrum after birth, the sooner the antibodies get transferred to the blood.  Choosing to feed the calf sooner or later is your choice, it is a management decision.  If the calf is born at night, do you feed it? YOUR CHOICE

Take the time to feed the calf before doing your milking chores.  Get the cow into a locking yolk, give the calf colostrum then go and milk your cows. The best colostrum you can give your heifer will be that which is collected soonest, remember the cow will be in her ‘milk producing mode’ within 1-2 hours of calving!

To let the calf nurse the cow or not, that is the question?

4 calves out of 10 left to suckle mothers fail to drink
40% passive transfer failure
40-30% mortality rate on calves failing to suckle

Should this really be a question? Can your business afford these kind of statistics?

Stomach tubing colostrum
As Sam points out, if it’s done by a skilled person then it won’t kill calves!  Make sure that the tube is empty before you remove it from the calves’ mouth, 100mls of colostrum or more into the calves’ lungs will kill it.

Hygiene New Born Calf
Make sure she gets colostrum before a manure meal.  If the calf tries to suckle, she is likely to end up sucking on the brisket which could be covered in muck, leading to the calf absorbing Staph, Strep, E-coli and Coliforms Bacteria.

Before milking the cow make sure you double wipe and strip the teats in preparation, this is a very effective way of removing bacteria from colostrum and making sure that your colostrum is ‘clean’.

Antibodies
A calf requires 200g of antibodies for the average calf to be fairly protected, remember they are born with no immunity. There is approximately 50g of antibodies per one litre of colostrum, so typically a calf will require 4L.

But my calf won’t want to drink at the next meal if I feed her that much………

Colostrum is 25% solids, if a calf receives 4L it will have had a kilo of milk solids, don’t worry or be surprised if the calf isn’t hungry during the next milk feeding time.

Milk powder is one of the safest forms of milk to give your heifer replacement, it will prevent the spread of Johnes disease and will always provide a balanced feed, unlike cows milk which can vary nutritionally from feed to feed.  Early lactation milk fed for the first week will yield healthier calves, as it bathes the gut in antibodies. Antibodies halve every milking, Sam advocates trying to get four milkings’ of early lactation milk into calf.

Storing colostrum

Storing colostrum in the freezer for up to a year or the fridge for up to 48 hours is a great way of making sure you always have some emergency colostrum on hand.  But are you storing it safely?

Bacteria doubles every 20 minutes, unless you can chill it to 16.C quickly, then the rate of it doubling is closer to every 200 hours.  If you choose to store milk while it is still warm, you could run the risk of keeping bacteria laden colostrum and you definitely don’t want to be feeding that!

To chill milk to 16.c quickly use a ratio of 1L of frozen ice to 4L of colostrum.  Consider keeping some pop bottles, filling them with water and freezing them.  Once you have your colostrum, put the bottle of frozen water into the bucket and it will cool quickly, allowing you to store it safely.

And finally…..
The immune system of a calf matures/grows at the same rate as the calf grows, so for winter feed more so that immune system keeps developing.  Calves don’t really start eating dry feed until three weeks of age, get all the weight gains you can from the milk powder in those first few weeks.

For advice on how to use milk powder or anything else featured in this blog please contact your local Wynnstay representative or:

Gill Dickson- National Calf Specialist

07971 296702  gill.dickson@wynnstay.co.uk

Rebecca Richards- Calf Specialist

07881 093633  rebecca.richards@wynnstay.co.uk

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