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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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Meeting fresh cow nutritional needs is critical to increased milk production and profitability. How cows are fed and cared for during the transition period – the three weeks before and three weeks after calving – sets the stage for milk production in the entire subsequent lactation.

If dairy managers can prevent a decrease in dry matter intake (DMI) and the onset of metabolic disorders (the issues that negatively impact cows during the transition period) the entire lactation falls into place, asserts Michael DeGroot, a dairy nutrition and management consultant near Fresno, California. Prevention of these issues translates into improved production and reproduction in the next lactation, he believes, adding real dollars to a dairy operation’s profit potential.

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Visiting other dairies, I’ve noticed that oftentimes, the heifer program gets overlooked. Sure, the silage looks great, the office is spotless and the cows are eating a nice ration. But the heifers fend for themselves in overcrowded pens eating throwbacks from the cows (that is, if the dairyman doesn’t consider this “wasting” it). When confronted with this issue, the usual response is, “Well, they’ll get the good stuff when they start making money.” Granted, especially during times of low milk prices, cutbacks have to start somewhere.

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Over the past few years, dry cow management has been re-examined with respect to nutrition housing and health. This [article] focuses on new ideas in lighting for dry cows and altering the length of the dry period as methods to improve overall productivity and health during the transition and subsequent lactation.

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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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