The Detrimental Effect of High Ash in Milk Replacers

In recent years, a great deal of attention has been focused on the significance of ash in calf milk replacers (CMR). In order to understand the importance of ash in today’s CMR’s, we first need to define it. Ash content is commonly expressed as a percentage of the total composition of the CMR. That percentage value represents the overall level of minerals in the product. Although manufacturers are not required to specify the level of ash in a CMR, it is a value that should be carefully considered when evaluating and choosing a CMR that best meets the calf’s needs. Measuring the ash content of a CMR is a fairly simple process. Under laboratory conditions, a known amount of CMR powder is exposed to extreme heat for a specific length of time, reduced to ash and then re-weighed. That weight is then expressed as a percentage of the sampled CMR starting weight. So if we start with a CMR sample weight of 60 grams and end up with 4 grams of ash, that CMR would have an ash content of 6.7%. A standard analysis of the ash in CMR shows that is comprised mostly of sodium, potassium, and chloride. These are salts that come from whey powder, which is a by-product of the cheese industry and commonly used as an energy source in the formulation of CMR’s. Depending on the type of cheese being manufactured, the whey may have ash levels in excess of 10%. If the lactose has been removed from the whey (de-lactose whey), the ash level may approach 20%. What does this mean to the calf?...

Give Life Back to Dehydrated Calves: Feeding Electrolytes the Right Way

There may not be a magic bullet to help with scours in calves but adding electrolytes to their diet will help save their lives. When calves get scours they lose a lot of water and minerals. With diarrhea being the leading health concern with calves, adding electrolytes will be the most beneficial. Antibiotics can help, but only kills the bacteria that infected the calf. Calves with scours lose a tremendous amount of fluid. Just giving antibiotics doesn’t help with the dehydration the calf faces, but adding extra fluids will help replenish the calf. A 100-pound calf needs about 10 percent of her body weight in fluids. A normal calf will drink four to five liters of fluids. When dehydration hits, a calf needs help to catch up on the fluids they are losing. This is where the electrolytes come in. Signs of scours: One good indicator to see if the calf is dehydrated is to check her eyes. If you notice her eyes have sunken in, she is already sick and dehydrated. The more sunken the eyes, the worse she is. You also can take the skin on the back of her neck and pinch it. If it takes longer than two seconds to flatten, you are more than likely dealing with a dehydrated calf.  Note the tables to help you figure out how dehydrated the calf might be: How dehydrated is the calf? Dehydration Attitude Sunken eye Skin tent duration Normal Mild Moderate Severe Normal Normal to slightly depressed (still standing) Depressed Very depressed, can’t stand, no suckle reflex None 2-4 mm 4-6 mm 6-8 mm None 1-3...

Calf hutch walk-throughs: What you need to look for

This article is part two in a two-part series on what to look for during a calf pen walk-through. Indoor calf pen walk-throughs: What you need to look for. In the previous article, the focus was on looking at calves with some simple ways to identify a potential problem. This time, we’ll talk about specific things to look at when walking calves in hutches. Well-managed hutches can be a great environment for calves. Looking at hutches can be similar to looking at calves. Focus on the needs of the calf and manage the hutch to meet its needs. Shelter is the calf’s most basic need. The hutch provides shelter from weather – rain, snow, wind, sun. Look at each hutch as you walk by and ask yourself, “Does this hutch provide adequate shelter for this calf? Will it be protected in all types of weather?” Positioning Are hutches positioned to take advantage of the local environment? In cold-weather climates, positioning hutches so the doors face to the south allows the calf to lie inside where it is protected from the wind but still has the benefit of warmth from the sun. In the summer, positioning the doors to the north will provide shade and help keep the calf cool. While it is not feasible to turn hutches once they are in use, many producers will start facing the hutches in the desired direction as the seasons change. As summer approaches, new calves will go into hutches that face north, while calves in south-facing hutches will be weaned and move out of the hutches before the weather gets hot. Air...

Indoor calf pen walk-throughs: What you need to look for

Many times when I’m walking calves on a farm, an employee will ask, “So, what are you looking at anyway?” I’m looking for sick calves using a simple method to quickly assess the health status of each calf. Start small Always start with the youngest calves and work your way to the oldest calves to prevent spread of disease from older calves to the newborns. Slowly walk past each pen and quickly assess the items below. When the calves are in group pens, go through the same basic approach. Take the time to look at each calf. If anything catches your eye, stop and watch the calf to get a more thorough evaluation. Make a note of the calf’s number and share any concerns with the owner or manager. While most of the calves noted are already being treated on the best-managed herds, occasionally you will come up with one that was doing well at last check and looks “off” when you walk through. On some herds, the managers or employees struggle to identify sick calves, and it’s a great opportunity to talk about early symptoms. Attitude is everything The first glance tells a lot about the calf. A healthy calf interacts with her environment. She should show interest in you when you approach. She should look at you and follow your movement with her eyes as you walk by. A sick calf will be slow to notice you, probably not show interest in your movement and generally look depressed. In a group pen, healthy calves will be with the herd and show interest in each other and you...

Energy: Does your Milk Replacer Fall Short?

With winter right around the corner, you might begin to wonder if the energy in your milk replacer is enough for your precious calves.  The goal should be to manage the calf nutrition program to provide for 1.75 to 2.25 lbs. average daily gain and to double the calf’s birth weight in 56 days. One of the confounding problems of meeting these goals is the increased energy demand of the calf as the ambient temperature declines below the calf’s thermoneutral zone of 60-75 degrees F.  This is especially important this time of year as temperatures are falling.  A 100 lb. calf needs at least 25% more milk dry matter to meet maintenance requirements and gain 1.5 lb. per day when the temperature is 15ₒF as it does at 68ₒF.  If this additional energy is not supplied via the milk/ milk replacer the calf may use body stores to maintain its body temperature.  This can result in weight loss, reduced immune function and possible illness or even death. The traditional 2 quarts, twice a day of a 20-20 milk replacer falls far short of providing the nutrition needed for optimal growth.  In fact it only provides about 55% of the energy and 48% of the protein needed to meet the goal of 1.8 lb. daily gain at 32ₒF.  To reach optimal growth potential, feeding 3 quarts 3 times a day of a high quality replacer is needed to deliver the needed nutrition. The energy supplied in replacers come from two main sources: fat and carbohydrate.   The predominant source of carbohydrates is lactose, which is a readily available source of energy. ...

Give calves a fighting chance!

From the moment the calf is born, there’s a fight going on between the calf’s immune function (the good guys) and the pathogens in the environment (the bad guys).  I like to think of it like a fight between rival gangs – the good guys and the bad guys.  The outcome is determined by which side is better prepared and brings more people.  The good guys are like the immune system.  We need the good guys to be in top shape and prepared to fight.  We can build up the strength of the good guys by having a good dry cow program, vaccinating to address the risks on the farm, getting colostrum into the calf, keeping her warm and dry, and putting her on a good nutrition program. Unfortunately, the bad guys also want a fight and will do everything they can to win the battle.  The bad guys are pathogens in the environment.  We can reduce the strength of the bad guys by keeping the calving pen clean, cleaning and sanitizing feeding equipment, dipping the navel and making sure everything the calf touches is clean.  Set that calf up for success by giving the immune system a stronger gang than the pathogens bring. If we have a full term calf, delivered normally in a clean, dry, calving pen, the sides are fairly evenly matched.  Getting that calf dried off, fed colostrum  or colostrum replacer such as Calf Armor 150, and moved promptly into a clean pen gives her immune system the advantage.  This calf will be exposed to pathogens in the environment, but her immune system can overpower...