Dairy farmers share calf administration methods for chilly climate

With chilly climate making respiratory points extra widespread in calves, two dairy farmers defined how they fight the chilly and decide to weight acquire via colostrum administration and proactive feeding methods.

Within the Heart for Dairy Excellence’s newest episode of the Cow-Aspect Conversations podcast, herd supervisor Greta Halahan and calf supervisor Virginia Deffibaugh of Singing Brook Farms in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, shared their calf administration methods and the way they’ve labored collectively to outline their protocols to make sure excellence from the beginning of a calf’s life.

Singing Brook Farms has a Registered Holstein herd and milks roughly 300 cows. They increase all their replacements and personal and farm about 2,500 acres. Greta opened the podcast by describing her function as herd supervisor and the way she works remotely utilizing CowManager software program to observe herd information and assist make selections. She works 4 days on the dairy operation each different week to assist handle the herd, whereas Virginia is accountable for being on-farm day by day to handle the calf program.

They went on to explain how they’ve revamped the calf program over the previous few years and their objectives in three key areas:

  • Mortality charges — “I’ve a zero p.c purpose as our mortality price. My purpose is that we forestall and catch issues so early that mortality simply doesn’t occur,” Greta mentioned.
  • Morbidity charges — “For morbidity charges, we need to see round 10 p.c. There are specific occasions of 12 months the place the constraints of our facility and the respiratory points are arduous to regulate, however we prefer to common about 10 p.c for the 12 months,” Greta added.
  • Development charges — “My purpose is to common two kilos price of acquire all year long. The fascinating factor to me about price of acquire is, the CowManager tag can in the end inform me how wholesome the rumen is within the cow. Our purpose is to construct excellent rumens, and our price of acquire tells us how profitable we have been at doing that.”

As a part of their calf administration technique, they mentioned their strategy to the transition cow pen. Clear bedding is a prime precedence together with correct vaccination protocols. Cows of their transition pen obtain the Scour Guard vaccine at dry-off together with different vaccines.

“Udder well being can also be extremely necessary. Heifer calves out of moms who’ve excessive somatic cell counts don’t carry out as nicely and are extra doubtless on our farm to get respiratory points,” Greta shared. “That’s not a scientific research, but it surely’s what I’ve observed on our farm, which is why I want to not have heifers out of excessive somatic cell cows.”

Additionally they described a novel answer they’ve discovered to enhance the feed consumption for close-up cows within the transition pen, which in the end helps set their calves up for achievement earlier than they’re even born.

“In pre-fresh, we’ve a topical pellet electrolyte that we use to feed the close-up cows twice a day to assist with feed intakes. We’ve seen an enchancment in feed consumption within the pre-fresh pen due to that,” Greta defined. “We’re solely speaking concerning the final two weeks. It will be very costly to do for our entire dry-cow program, however the associated fee is definitely pretty low for us to do this with simply the close-up cows throughout these closing two weeks.”

Throughout the supply stage, Greta described how necessary navel care is to making sure their calves get off to a wholesome begin. They dip the navels in iodine proper after start, when the calf is put within the pen, when it’s first fed, and a closing time within the calf barn.

“Navels are a extremely sneaky factor. You don’t know you probably did a foul job till it’s approach too late,” Greta shared. “You may not know till the calf is 60 days previous and weaned and having a respiratory subject.”

Additionally they harassed the significance of colostrum administration and the most important adjustments they’ve made inside their program. Their purpose is for each heifer and bull calf to have a minimal of 300 IgGs (immunoglobulins) of colostrum throughout the first 4 hours of start. To satisfy that purpose, they applied an incentive program with farm workers to assist ship the colostrum.

“Particularly for a herd our measurement, one in every of our challenges was we don’t have somebody accountable for the maternity pen. So, we’ve an incentive program for workers to take part in serving to with [calf care and colostrum],” Greta defined. “We arrange a system of managing the colostrum to make it straightforward for them to pick out and ship that colostrum.”

To do that, Virginia works rigorously to handle all the colostrum course of, so it’s easy, easy, and fast for all workers to manage.

“We attempt to get cows to the parlor inside a really quick interval of calving. The nearer you get, the much less the milk has diluted the colostrum down and also you get higher high quality. As quickly as she’s milked, the colostrum is moved on to a fridge. Once I are available in for my shift, I check it. I attempt to hold ones that check greater than 24 on a Brix Refractometer for the heifers and decrease than that for bulls,” Virginia mentioned within the podcast. “I label it, so if I’m not right here when a calf is born, whoever is right here can simply thaw a bag and administer it in a comparatively well timed method.”

This course of helps Virginia management the standard selections and ensures all calves obtain 4 quarts of colostrum on the very first feeding.

“Once we have been going via our colostrum protocols, it grew to become very clear that for it to occur the very same approach each single time, there wanted to be a course of that was well timed and easy. By Virginia managing it, freezing it, processing it, and sorting it, when a calf arrives, no one must decide aside from whether or not they want a bag for a bull or heifer. We would like Virginia to be the one making the standard selections for the calves,” Greta added. “I really feel colostrum is the muse of all of it. In case you’re not doing colostrum nicely, none of your different methods will work.”

As quickly because the calves of their program come off colostrum, Virginia defined how they start feeding them an electrolyte day by day till they’re three weeks previous. “We’ve discovered it will increase fluid consumption, which actually begins them consuming grain at a youthful age. Their grain consumption picks up lots quicker, which in fact results in a better progress price,” Virginia mentioned.

In chilly, winter temperatures, the deal with colostrum consumption and electrolytes additionally helps their calves keep wholesome and rising.

“The colostrum undoubtedly helps as a result of they’re more healthy to start with. So the chilly doesn’t have an effect on them as vastly,” Virginia defined. “At three weeks previous, after they come off the electrolyte, we improve their morning feeding. That does a very good bit for combatting the chilly and maintaining weight acquire up over the winter.”

On the conclusion of the podcast interview, Greta shared how she makes use of apps and expertise to speak protocols with workers and troubleshoot issues, particularly when she works remotely. She has discovered success with an organizational app known as SlackBot.

“It has a complete bunch of various to-do lists. We now have a calf class in there, and I can select which workers go into every class,” Greta mentioned. “We ask questions, make feedback, and share no matter we have to. That’s how we talk. It’s very nice as a result of we are able to all see each communication.”

The app helps her observe herd well being throughout all the dairy operation and talk protocols. Nonetheless, she reminded listeners that having workers who’re dedicated to the operation’s objectives is simply as necessary as well-defined protocols.

“Your protocols are solely pretty much as good because the people who find themselves managing them. I’m very happy with the protocols and the way far we’ve are available in sure areas, however we’ve fantastic workers who care concerning the cows each bit as a lot as I do.” Greta shared. “They’re glorious at following the protocols and really resilient and keen to work with our unorthodox approach of managing issues.”

To take heed to the complete podcast interview, together with their perception on colostrum absorption, vaccination protocols, weaning, and dehorning, go to the Heart for Dairy Excellence web site. The podcast can also be obtainable on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and Amazon Music. With a brand new episode launched every month, Greta and Virginia’s interview is the third episode within the second season.

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