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Calves & Heifers

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, milk or replacer feeding and disease control along with proper bedding, sanitation and ventilation.

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The immune system that protects the body from infection is composed of two main branches, the innate branch and the adaptive branch. The innate branch provides the first line of defense against an attack by infectious agents and includes such components as skin, mucous membranes and neutrophils. The adaptive branch includes cells that can adapt and specifically target many different invaders.

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As dairies strive to increase the number of high-quality replacement animals, there are many factors to address. This article starts with the very stump of the production tree – ways to increase survivability of the calf immediately before, during and after the calving process. Actions we take during these few hours will determine whether we have a potential replacement or a dead calf needing disposal.

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Production agriculture is unique because raising replacement animals is a normal part of day-to-day business operations and are commonly treated as operating expenses. The replacements are also an asset on the balance sheet and, for most dairies, become the primary productive asset of the business.

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Negative energy balance (NEB) is a physiological challenge the Holstein dairy cow faces in the early postpartum period when dietary energy intake cannot meet with energy output in milk. Infectious diseases commonly seen are retained placenta, metritis and mastitis, which are consequences of depressed immunity and NEB. Metabolic disorders may include ketosis, displaced abomasum and fatty liver.

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What causes calf scours? As new calves arrive, so does the threat of the common condition known as calf scours or neonatal calf diarrhea. Infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria cause this condition. These agents have the common property of causing a net loss of water and electrolytes from the calf’s body via the gut. This causes potentially life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that can easily result in death. The main infectious organisms that can cause diarrhea in calves are:

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The goal for management when feeding dairy replacement heifers is to produce high-quality replacement heifers at a low cost. It is difficult to detail all of the business and biological aspects of developing information-based quality control management programs for dairy replacements in this article; therefore, the following key control points will be offered.

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