Prevention, Symptoms and Solutions for Calf Dehydration

Every farm has them but nobody wants to talk about them. Calf scours. The name itself isn’t pretty, let alone the distinct hue you’ve seen somewhere and instantly identified as “calf scour yellow.” While calf scours may be a normal occurrence, we shouldn’t have to put up with it as being common. Morbidity and mortality due to calf scours can be very costly to the calf and the producer. Reduced feed efficiency and susceptibility to other diseases are additional expenses just like the money for drugs, labor, and veterinarian bills that you can instantly see leaving your pocket book. A calf under gastro-intestinal stress will become dehydrated very quickly without proper and timely intervention. By the time clinical symptoms of dehydration are noticed, a calf is already at least 6% dehydrated. Preventing Dehydration Be observant: Watch calves at least 3 times a day. Look for the clinical signs including: sunken eyes, taut skin, lack of urination, and loose manure. Watch the weather: This is especially true in the summer months. Hot, dry weather can lead to rapid dehydration in calves. Free choice, clean, fresh water: Always have this available. Avoid feeding liquid feeds that are more than 15% soilds.  These feeds have a high osmolality and will draw water out of the body and into the small intestine causing loose manure.  Adding an excessive amount of additives and/or milk replacer powder can result in mixes that are more than 15% solids.  These mixtures can increase a calf’s risk of dehydration. For calves at risk of dehydration, offer electrolytes to calves midday to keep animals hydrated in case they are not...

Get in or Get out: Is it Time to Expand the Dairy?

Last week I had the opportunity to tour a few dairy farms near the Fond du Lac, WI area with Badger NAMA (National Agriculture Marketing Association).  We started out the day at Vir-Clar Farms, a 1,250 cow dairy farm with a methane digester, then headed to LaClare Farms, a goat farm with a farmstead café, and lastly, we visited Kelley Country Creamery for some fresh farmstead ice cream. Even though all three farms were very diverse, there was a common theme that I picked out from the stories that were told on our tours. Each family farm decision started out with a tough, but exciting conversation around the kitchen table.  The family realized that milking under 100 cows or goats just wasn’t paying the bills like it used to, and they had to make the tough decision to “get in or get out” of their dreams of continuing to operate a sustainable dairy farm. I can imagine this is a conversation many dairy farmers are having around their kitchen tables.  If you are considering expanding your dairy operation, you can use Vir-Clar Farms as a shining example of how to expand successfully. Vir-Clar Farms is owned by Gary and Rose Boyke and their children, Katie, J.R., Angie, and Tiffany.  The farm started out with 60 cows, and a focus on top genetic cattle.  In 1995, they expanded the herd to 300 cows, and in 1997 they added another 200 cows, and went from a double 8 to a double 10 parlor.  They have since added more freestall barns and are up to 1,250 milking cows.  They also added unique and cutting...

Dry Cows Are Hit Hard by the Heat, Too

In March, Dr. Scott Bascom, ANC Director of Technical Services, wrote “Time to Think About Heat Stress?” which outlined how to prepare your barn for the upcoming summer weather. With temperatures now reaching into the 90s, it is definitely past time to start thinking about heat stress. If you haven’t already, it’s time to take action. We all know that heat stress causes decreased intake, decreased milk production, and decreased reproductive performance. What we don’t always think about is that heat stress can have an effect long after the temperatures have cooled. One group this is very evident in is the dry cow group. It is easy to forget about the dry cows when thinking about heat stress. Many times, a farmer’s main concern is to avoid losing any milk production in the lactating herd during hot weather, so they focus only on cooling the cows that are currently producing. This is a mistake. Cows experiencing heat stress in the dry period will also suffer a decrease in milk production after calving. A study done by Tao et al in 2012 at the University of Florida shows the importance of remembering dry cows during periods of heat stress. The study used 32 cows at the beginning of their dry period and placed them into two groups. One group was housed in a free stall that had the following heat abatements: fans, sprinklers, and shade. This group of cows was considered the ‘cooled group.’ The ‘heat stress’ group only received shade as heat abatement. Several metabolic markers were measured in the first week of lactation. The study found that the cooled...

Nutrition: The Key to Agricultural Sustainability

Just like nutrition is important to your health and my health, nutrition is important to the health of animals.  An animal’s nutrition is even more important to you and me because we consume food products from the animals.  Furthermore, animal nutrition is important to the sustainability of agriculture.  By feeding animals appropriately, we are promoting good health and preventing illness.  Good health leads to consistent eating and drinking and, therefore, growth, production, and reproduction.  From beef to dairy, attention to nutrition can help a farm remain sustainable as well as profitable. Animal Health Animals will only perform at their highest potential if fed the right diet.  Beef cows need a diet that encourages them to eat and grow.  Dairy cows need a diet that maximizes milk production. Nutritionists create rations to help farmers feed their animals appropriately.  Rations are developed to meet the nutritional needs of the animal so the animal can stay healthy and reach the highest level of performance.    Human Health It is important to feed our animals properly so that we promote good health, which will produce good tasting, nutritious and safe food products for us! For example, people prefer to eat well-marbled cuts of steak because it is flavorful and ultimately tastes better! The quality of beef is determined by the marbling of beef, which is the streaking of intermuscular fat.  Quality beef is lean but also very flavorful.  In order for producers to have good quality beef with especially good taste, they must feed their animals appropriately.  Not only does beef taste good but it is good for us.  Beef is full of...

How to Feed Trace Minerals to Cattle for Optimal Health

From beef to dairy, minerals are essential for good health. It has been noted that trace mineral deficiencies can often go unnoticed but can be very costly as they impact immune and enzyme function – all very vital to overall animal health, including milk and beef production and reproduction. According to an article provided by Zinpro, trace minerals play a key role in immune function, reproduction, energy and protein metabolism, enzyme function, cellular repair and integrity, and claw health and maintenance.   What kinds of trace minerals should be included in your herd’s diet? – Feed only organic trace minerals. Organic trace minerals, such as zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt, are more easily absorbed by animals than inorganic minerals.   How does including trace minerals in my herd’s diet benefit my herd? – Long-term deficiencies can lead to economic losses. Cattle with nutritional deficiencies can experience decreased performance, poor immunity, and reproductive failures.   What is the best way to ensure my herd is free from deficiencies? – There is a myth that cattle have “natural wisdom” and will consume the right amount of minerals if provided through free choice; however, this is 100 percent false. The best way to ensure all of your herd is free from deficiencies is to include the minerals in the ration. By including minerals in the ration, you are ensuring that: 1) the minerals are consumed due to the palatability of the ration 2) the right amount of mineral is included 3) each cow is consuming minerals   Free choice, does not ensure prevention against deficiencies, but is convenient and remains a widespread practice...