Living our Values by Doing What’s Right for the Cow

Doing what’s right for the cows.  That mindset should be the guiding principle of every nutrition consultant.  I often make the comment in my recommendations to dairy producers that I need to speak for the cows.  After doing a herd walk-through or investigating a specific feed or management situation, I summarize the current situation, describe what we want to accomplish, and then explain why it is important to make that change. In other words, how will the cow benefit and what impact will that change have on the producer and profitability. I don’t want to make it sound easy or that each case will result in a slam-dunk conclusion. For instance, I have spent multiple years trying to get one of my customers to improve the quality of haylage stored in his oxygen-limiting silos.  The feed goes in the silo at high quality and in good shape, but often comes out with mold, toxins, or other storage challenges. Inoculants from competitors have been used on the farm for years.  Unfortunately, many times the forage is stored at moisture levels too low for inoculants to work like they are designed to. The compromised forage has often caused digestive upsets, sick cows, and reduced reproductive performance.  Even though this farm is well managed and maintaining daily milk averages over 90 pounds a cow, the fact is this 330 cow farm has spent over $30,000 in a single year for toxin binders and gut health products to combat the issue of poorly stored feed.  At some point enough is enough and someone has to speak for the cows! Slight modifications to harvesting...

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...

Adding Methionine to Lactating Dairy Rations

The benefits of adding methionine to dairy lactating rations to enhance milk and milk protein production has been known for many years. The return on investment of this inclusion was usually measured by the cost of the methionine against the potential return from milk protein production.  The value of milk protein has varied greatly over the last few years. The value of this milk protein is at a low point, which has many questioning the value of adding methionine, and some reducing the amount of supplementation. Additional research has shown the value of feeding dairy cows methionine pre- and post-freshening. Research shows it improves immune function during the critical transition period. A presentation at the 2016 Four-State Nutrition Conference by Dr. Phil Cardoso of the University of Illinois highlighted the beneficial effects of methionine supplementation during the later stages of follicle growth and early embryo development. Supplemented cows had lower early embryonic death (primarily between day 21-61). “Supplementation of cows with methionine during the final stages of follicular development and early embryo development, until Day 7 after breeding, lead to lipid accumulation changes in the embryos and resulted in differences in gene expression in the embryo.  Methionine supplementation seems to impact the preimplantation embryo in a way that enhances its capacity for survival because there is strong evidence that endogenous lipid reserves serve as an energy substrate. The lower pregnancy losses from cows fed methionine enriched diets suggest that methionine favors embryo survival, at least in multiparous cows. Further studies are needed to corroborate whether supplementation with methionine would have a beneficial impact on embryo survival and if these...

Reschke joins ANC as 2016 Sales Intern

Alicia Reschke has joined Agri-Nutrition Consulting this summer as a sales intern. Alicia grew up in Green Bay, WI and graduated from UW-Platteville with a degree in animal science with a dairy emphasis. In college, she worked on the University farm where she milked cows and took care of the calves. Growing up, Alicia had no agriculture background, but fell in love working with animals when she went out to her aunt’s ranch and helped with the horses. From there, Alicia got an opportunity to help milk on a small farm nearby. In her free time, Alicia enjoys being outside hiking, fishing, and hunting. She also does Tae Kwan Do and likes to bowl. In Alicia’s sales internship this summer, she will focus on learning the ANC program and products, collecting customer testimonials, and assisting the sales team with calf research projects.  ANC is very excited to have Alicia join us this...

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...