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|0307 EL: Twenty tips for raising healthy calves|
|El Lechero Dairy Basics - Calf and Heifer Raising|
|Written by Dr. Mireille Chahine and Dr. Rick Norell|
|Wednesday, 28 February 2007 17:00|
1. Make sure the calf is born in a clean and dry area.The calving area is the first source of pathogens for the calf that is born with no immunity. The maternity area, all the equipment used for calving assistance, and the holding pen for calves, must be kept dry, clean, and disinfected. Manure should not be a newborn calf’s first meal. Remember a new calf is too vulnerable to be able to fight an army of microbes.
2. Disinfect the navel soon after the birth of the calf by dipping it with 7% iodine as soon as possible after birth and redipping it 12 to 18 hours later. The navel cord and the navel area on the stomach should be completely covered with iodine solution.3. Provide colostrum to newborn calves as soon as possible after birth. The newborn calf does not have immunity because it is not capable of producing its own antibodies. A calf should consume 4 quarts (1 gallon) of colostrum during the first 2 hours of life (preferably during the first half hour of life) and 2 quarts more 6 to 12 hours later in order to be able to fight the diseases caused by the numerous microbes present in the environment. No one likes to work with sick animals so remember that feeding colostrum to calves as soon as possible after birth will allow you to work with healthier animals. Use an esophageal tube if the calf refuses to drink the colostrum.
4. Do not leave surplus colostrum outside the refrigerator for a long period of time. It will have very high bacteria counts and can become contaminated by flies if left uncovered. Colostrum should be fed shortly after milking or refrigerated/frozen.
5. If possible, do not mix colostrum from different cows. If the colostrum of one cow has a pathogen, the pathogen can be transmitted to a large group of calves when colostrum from different cows are pooled together, causing an epidemy.
6. Do not feed waste milk to newborn calves.
7. House young calves in individual hutches until a week after they are weaned.
8. Reduce calf stress: Stressed calves absorb fewer antibodies (have less immunity) and have a greater risk of becoming sick. The most common factors that cause calves to become stressed out are: excessive heat and/or humidity, excessive cold, cold drafts of air, wet bedding, dirty surroundings, overcrowding, inconsistent time of feeding, inconsistent amount fed, too many flies.
9. Reduce pathogens: Would you want to put a baby in a filthy bed? Would you want to feed a baby with a dirty milk bottle? Probably not. Remember that a newborn calf is a baby and exposing it to a big load of pathogens is the road to disaster. Are too many of your calves dying soon? Are too many of your calves getting sick?
If the answer is yes to any of the previous questions, you’re probably either not providing your calves with a sufficient amount of good quality colostrum as soon as they are born (they do not have enough immunity to fight the diseases) or you’re overloading their bodies with a large number of pathogens. Common practices which reduce exposure to pathogens are: a) individual housing for milk-fed calves; b) cleaning and sanitizing housing between calves; c) allowing housing to dry out between calves; d) maintaining proper ventilation; e) removing soiled bedding; and f) frequently adding fresh bedding.
10. Use ample bedding. It is very important to keep the calf dry. Start each calf with a freshly bedded pack and add straw frequently to keep the bedding dry. Ammonia is released from urine in wet bedding. Reducing ammonia levels is important for preventing respiratory disease.
11. Ventilation vents. Proper use of ventilation vents is important for keeping calves cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Vents in the back wall and on top of the hutch should be completely open during the summer to enhance cooling from breezes and reduce heat load. The vents in the back wall should be closed in the winter to prevent cold drafts and to keep the bedding dry.
12. Tilt the hutch up between calves and wash with a pressure sprayer to remove dried manure on the inside walls. Allow the hutch to dry out with direct sunlight on the inside walls. The old straw pack should be removed between calves and fresh bedding added. Hutches should be moved to a new location at least twice a year.
13. Don’t allow waste milk to sit for extended periods of time without refrigeration or a cover for the container.
14. Pasteurize waste milk before feeding it to calves. To be effective, pasteurization requires heating milk to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time. The milk must be cooled and fed soon or refrigerated. The pasteurizer must be cleaned properly and sanitized between uses.
15. Properly clean and sanitize all feeding equipment to minimize calf disease.
16. Wean calves in individual housing but do not move to a group pen for one week post-weaning. The transition to group housing is less stressful when group sizes are small (5 to 10 calves) and all calves are similar in size and age. Small groups also make it easier for the calf manager to identify poor-doing calves.
17. Keep opened milk replacer bags closed to prevent contamination.
18. Mix the correct amount of milk replacer with water. Weighing the powder is more reliable than using the scoops provided in the bag of milk replacer.
19. Wear gloves and wash feeding equipment with hot water (~140 degrees F). Use a chlorinated cleaner or a combination of detergent plus bleach (mix them in a well-ventilated area). Brushing and wiping action removes the soil from the surface while soap and chlorine kill bacteria. Milk solids are suspended in hot water but will reattach to feeding utensils if water temperature falls below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your water temperature does not fall below 120 degrees when washing feeding equipment.
20. If you are not comfortable handling a situation or do not understand something ask for help and for additional information. EL
Dr. Mireille Chahine, Extension Dairy Specialist; Dr. Rick Norell, Extension Dairy Specialist, Animal and Veterinary Science Department, University of Idaho