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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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Dairy producers, calf raisers and allied industry came together last month to focus on the future of the dairy industry – the calves.

“This is where it starts,” said Douglas Braun, DVM, senior veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health Dairy Veterinary Operations. “The farm’s future for the next year is in the fresh cow. For the next three to five years, it’s in the newborn calf.”

Braun performed a wet lab in getting calves off to the right start at the Dairy Calf and Heifer Conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

He stated, “We are still losing 8 percent of calves before we have a chance to wean them.”

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Visual appraisal of heifer body condition is important to Matthew London.

The 1,200-head commercial heifer grower strives to achieve optimum body condition at all stages of growth so that heifers leaving the Cleveland, Georgia, farm freshen at 22 to 24 months old.

London’s goal parallels that established by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association in its Gold Standards II (www.calfandheifer.org/?page=GoldStandardsII).

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In the March 2010 issue of The Veterinary Clinics of North America Food Animal Practice journal, in the article “Control, Management and Prevention of Bovine Respiratory Disease in Dairy Calves and Cows,” authors Dr. Patrick Gorden and Dr. Paul Plummer of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine reviewed vaccine and management programs for young calves.

Relying heavily on an article published in the same journal in 2008 by Dr. Chris Chase and coworkers at South Dakota State University, these authors write: “Effective vaccine programs for young dairy calves are difficult to develop because of the complex nature of the immature immune system and the complexities of management systems where calves live.”

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Pinkeye is an infection that can sneak up on cattle, including dairy replacement heifers. Severe cases can leave lasting eye damage, not to mention performance setbacks.

The bacterium Moraxella bovis is the most common cause of pinkeye. However, other Moraxella species and some viruses also can contribute to pinkeye. Outbreaks among cattle, including heifers, peak in the summer because of increased exposure to ultraviolet light.

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Studies have shown significant benefits of a proper colostrum- feeding protocol. These represent the need to rapidly thaw and feed 4 liters/quarts of high-quality colostrum within 30 minutes after a calf is born.

For farms wanting to use their own colostrum, getting a fresh cow milked, or banked colostrum thawed, in that amount of time can be a real challenge.

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Respiratory disease is responsible for nearly half of all weaned heifer deaths on U.S. dairy farms.

New benchmarks for pneumonia treatment and mortality rates take aggressive aim at this troubling statistic from the National Animal Health Monitoring System’s Dairy 2007 study.

The benchmarks, established last year in the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association’s Gold Standards II, urge heifer growers nationwide to keep pneumonia treatment rates under 3 percent for heifers between six months old and 12 months old and less than 1 percent for heifers 12 months old to freshening.

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