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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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Waste-milk pasteurizers are being utilized by a number of dairies and calf ranches across the country. They can be a good tool to help producers capture the value of a waste product for calf feed, while still working to protect the health of their herds.

But successfully feeding pasteurized waste milk comes with its own set of challenges and management considerations. Delivering optimal nutrition to support the most efficient growth and development of a herd’s future replacements takes some fine-tuning.

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Summary: APC Inc.'s Jim Quigley explained that feeding colostrum to newborn calves is valuable for the next several days after birth. He recommends supplementing milk replacer with excess colostrum in order to provide calves with functional proteins, including antibodies.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Quigley a follow-up question:

Q: Are you seeing an uptick in producers feeding colostrum after the first 24 hours from birth?

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About a year ago, calf raisers were notified that neomycin/oxytetracycline (NT) regulations for calf milk replacers were going to change and manufacturers were required to cease production of feeds complying with the previous regulations six months ago. As of Oct. 2, 2010, milk replacers and supplements containing the previously-approved levels of NT had to be out of the feed distribution channel and no longer be available for purchase.

In response to the proposed changes, many questions came to the surface quickly: What are the new regulations? Why is this change occurring? Most importantly, how are the new regulations going to affect my calf feeding program?

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Respiratory problems are the second-most significant disease for youngstock on dairy operations, behind scours band diarrhea, according to the 2007 National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) survey. The same study found respiratory disease is the single-largest cause of death among U.S. weaned heifers, with 46 percent of all weaned heifer deaths attributed to this cause.

Richard Nelson of Nelson Farm Inc. in Vermont identifies the threat of respiratory disease as his primary concern for raising replacements.

“The only thing I’m really worried about losing a calf to after they are more than 10 days old is a respiratory challenge,” Nelson says.

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Measuring, benchmarking and improving reproduction is a common goal within the milking herd. While the industry has a wealth of knowledge and information related to lactating animal reproductive performance, much less exists when it comes to heifer reproduction benchmarks.

Heifer reproductive performance is just as important to the dairy, since the sooner heifers can be bred and confirmed pregnant, the sooner they will join the milking herd and begin to generate revenue. Creating benchmarks and goals for your heifer program is critical to ensure replacement heifers join the milking string in a timely fashion.

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Heifer raiser Darin Mann of M&M Feedlot in Parma, Idaho, is focused on getting animals bred and back to the dairy producer in a timely manner. Darin provides six tips for how he effectively gets heifers bred on his ranch:

1. Sort animals upon arrival.
Heifers arrive at M&M Feedlot at 400 pounds. At arrival, heifers are sorted into groups based on their weight in 50-pound increments. This allows for animals of the same size to be fed and managed the same and creates consistency across animals within one pen, says Darin.

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