This article was originally published in the Wisconsin Agriculturist. In Wisconsin, it has become more common for pre-weaned dairy heifers and bulls to leave the farm before one week of age. Calves of this age can be transported easily, but first, they need to be ready for the trip as they have a reduced capacity […]
While all the data points of information at our fingertips to monitor is a positive, there are still areas to improve when it comes to animal health and Automated Milking Systems (AMS), particularly for hoof health.
Why is it that dairy farms in my area are averaging under the Wisconsin average of 24,884 pounds of milk per cow? This question got me asking questions to some farmers and agri-service providers. One piece of the puzzle that emerged is that we may need to be paying closer attention to transition cows in our smaller herds. Care of the transition cow is not a new concept, but management strategies for the smaller farm may be overlooked when recommendations are shared.
The three–week period before and after calving is one of the most challenging times for dairy cattle because they must cope with physiological challenges such as decreased dry matter intake, impaired immune system function, and increased metabolic and systemic inflammation (Drackley, 1999; LeBlanc, 2010). After calving, inflammation has been documented in cattle (Bionaz et al., 2007; Huzzy et al., 2009). This suggests that cattle experience some degree of inflammation due to tissue damage associated with birthing and the immense metabolic demand associated with the onset of lactation (Bradford et al., 2015).
A sound colostrum management program should be the cornerstone to every farm’s calf management program. Calves are born with a naive immune system, one that does not have enough circulating antibodies to help fight disease. Because of this they are highly susceptible to disease for the first few weeks of life.
Raising healthy dairy calves requires maximizing the calf’s level of immunity against disease while minimizing its exposure to infectious diseases. However, there will still be times when calves will become sick. Can you identify the sick calf?
Diarrhea, or scours, accounts for over 50% of illnesses in preweaned calves, contributing to 32 percent of all deaths in calves (USDA NAHMS 2014 Preweaned Calf Component Survey). Scours itself does not usually kill the calf. Rather, the calf will succumb from the dehydration and electrolyte imbalances which follow. Early identification of affected calves and early and aggressive treatment with fluids and electrolytes is the most successful way to treat scouring calves.
Winter weather brings new challenges for completing chores on the farm. Calf care is no exception. Calves perform best when we acknowledge their needs change in colder weather and adjust our management accordingly.
Prototheca bovis has been cultured in herds and is emerging as a threat to producers statewide. Prototheca has been linked to mastitis since 1952, however, within the last five years, the prevalence has significantly increased. Similar to Staph aureus and mycoplasma, Prototheca is hard to detect, has no known cure, and is contagious by intermittently shedding from cow to cow.
Animal care and welfare starts on day one with the newborn calf. Healthy calves are the cornerstone of every dairy operation, not only providing the future genetics for the herd but healthy calves are also important to the vitality of the dairy farm.