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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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It is always easier to achieve a goal when working with biology, rather than against it. By taking advantage of important characteristics of bacterial growth, we can better achieve our goal of feeding clean colostrum.

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Diseases caused by mycoplasma continue to emerge and remain frustrating to all segments of the dairy industry. In cows, several species of mycoplasma can cause mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis, abortion, and other disease syndromes. Mycoplasma bovis is the most common cause of mycoplasma mastitis and is one of the leading causes of contagious mastitis. In young stock, mycoplasma may cause a variety of disease syndromes as early as two to three weeks after birth.

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Treatments for diarrhea caused by disease-causing organisms is a big deal to all calf raisers. It seems that we spend a tremendous amount of our time dealing with baby calves, working to feed them appropriate amounts of colostrum, keeping them isolated from organisms that may cause scours and, occasionally, treating those that do develop disease.

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It is well-known that acquiring and absorbing adequate amounts of colostral immunoglobulins are essential to the health of the neonate, since calves are born almost void of any circulating antibodies. Colostrum is defined as the first milk harvested from the cow immediately after calving.

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Physiology of the preruminant calf
Water makes up 85.8 percent of the bodyweight (BW) of a neonatal calf. Prior to birth, the developing fetus is surrounded by amniotic fluid that is 92 percent water. In the uterus, the developing calf is supplied with water by diffusion from maternal plasma, and at birth the calf is at its greatest water content, having developed in a water-based media where water has borne the nutrients required to allow rapid growth and development.

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A lot of work and care is required to develop newborn calves into productive, lactating cows. When managed properly, replacement heifers should grow at a rate that allows them to calve at 24 months of age or less. However, a recent report indicated the average age of Holsteins at first calving was 26.9 months, so there are opportunities for improvement. Also, the mortality rate on many farms is higher than desired, reducing the number of potential replacement heifers.

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