Cold Stress in Calves

Written by Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Once again, cooler temperatures are on the way, and now is the time to prepare. To help calves perform to their full genetic potential, several steps must be taken to help them overcome cold stress.

Cold stress occurs when a calf expends energy to stay warm. This diverts energy away from growth and the immune system, thus compromising weight gain and calf health. For calves less than three weeks of age, cold stress begins at 60°F, and for every one-degree drop in temperature below 50°F, a calf requires 1% more energy just to stay alive. Even more energy is required for growth. Calves over six weeks of age don’t begin to feel cold stress until temperatures fall below 42°F. Rain, snow and wind will further exacerbate cold stress if there is not adequate protection from the elements. Newborn calves are the most susceptible to cold stress due to their low body fat and minimal grain intake, so an increase in scours and pneumonia is very common during the colder months.

An effective way to manage cold stress is to provide more calories. One option is to increase the amount of milk at each feeding. A benefit of this is the feeding schedule remains unaltered. The problem is very young calves may not want to drink the additional milk, thus starving them of essential energy. An alternative is to add a third feeding. This feeding should be the same volume as the other two feedings, increasing the caloric intake by one-third. With regards to the interval between feedings, as long as the timing is consistent, the calves don’t necessarily have to be fed every eight hours. Beneficial results can be attained by feeding at 6 am, 12 pm, and 6 pm, but other schedules can be equally successful.

Other nutritional options involve adding more milk replacer powder or fat to the milk. By adding extra milk replacer powder, while keeping the volume of water the same, you increase the fat and protein content of the milk. The calf will consume the same volume of milk (for example, 2 quarts), but there will be 12 ounces of powder instead of the standard 8-10 ounces.  Adding a fat supplement by itself will increase the energy density of the milk to a greater extent than adding milk replacer powder, as fat provides more calories than protein. Whether you add more powder or only fat, the total solids of the milk should not exceed 16%, as a higher total solids level can dehydrate the calf if free-choice water is not available.

It’s not uncommon to see calves eat more starter when it is cold. Too often this is driven by hunger due to an insufficient amount of milk offered. A balance is needed between milk and grain consumption. One benefit of higher starter intake is faster rumen development. The heat generated by the rumen bacteria acts as an internal furnace, warming the calf from the inside out. As starter intake increases though, the amount of water the calf requires also goes up, so warm water must be provided multiple times a day to prevent freezing. Many studies have shown calves grow best on milk though, so more emphasis should be placed on milk consumption than grain.

Other cold stress management techniques focus on the calf’s surroundings. Calf jackets are an excellent way to decrease the amount of heat a calf loses to its environment. The calf must be completely dry before a jacket is put on so it doesn’t trap moisture against the calf. Long-stem straw is the ideal bedding and should be deep enough to enable a calf to nestle in for warmth. The calf’s entire foot and at least part of the leg should be covered with bedding to provide proper insulation. Bedding should always be kept clean and dry, as wet bedding robs more heat from the calf.

Following these simple steps will minimize cold stress and equip the calf for a lifetime of success.

Do you have questions or comments about winter cold stress in calves? Feel free to add it to this post.

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Get a Head Start on Winter Pest Control

Written by Dr. Armon Hetzel, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

mousePest control comes in many forms. Although fly season is over; birds, rats and mice can be just as costly to dairy farmers. These rodent’s corresponding disease transmission can lead to a reduction in milk production and decreased weight gains. Typically, rodents become an issue in colder weather as they try to escape to warm barns and find a food supply.

  • Recognize if you have a bird and/or rodent problem. Be aware of your surroundings. You might not see the pests because they come out at night. Look for gnawing marks and damage in and around feed storage areas, droppings, feathers and footprints.
  • Get existing pest problems under control.Use a combination of sanitation, structural updates and baits or traps to eliminate pests. Simply using baits won’t get rid of the issue.
  • Prevent birds from congregating in free stalls, calf barns and bunkers.They’re flying sources of bacteria and parasites. Bird control methods range from simple solutions such as visual scares (life-like owls or reflective objects that blow in the wind) to high-tech laser and electronic products.
  • Use rodenticides to prevent rat and mice populations from contaminating feed sources.Rotate between active ingredients to keep rodents from building up a resistance. Also keep in mind that while dogs and cats are a welcome addition on many farms, they should be discouraged from entering feed storage areas.
  • Reduce the number of potential nesting areas. Rodent nesting areas will be inside sheltered areas. Work to eliminate open areas, especially in and around feed storage areas.
  • Keep doors and windows closed. The best way to keep birds and rodents out is to limit their ability to get in. In addition to keeping doors and windows closed, plug holes in walls and ceilings.
  • Be on the lookout for problem areas. This includes bird or rodent nests, clutter and damaged feed bags. Address these areas quickly rather than waiting for the problem to increase.
  • Continue a regular program. It’s important to continue to use baits and traps as preventative measures even after you believe the problem has been resolved.

Do you have questions or comments about winter pest control? Feel free to add it to this post.

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Addressing Colostrum Quality or Quantity Issues

Written by Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Cow & CalfIf you’ve stayed up to date with calf-raising practices, it will be no surprise to hear an average-sized newborn Holstein calf should receive one gallon of high-quality maternal colostrum as soon as possible after birth. In order to be considered high quality, colostrum must have a Brix reading of 22% or higher, or fall in the green range at room temperature when tested with a colostrometer. This correlates to 10 grams per liter of antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins or IgG. What happens if the colostrum doesn’t reach the cutoff, or the cow gives less than one gallon? Below are some cow management tips to address these potential colostrum quality and quantity issues.

To truly rectify a colostrum problem, one must understand how it is formed. Cows start shifting antibodies from their bloodstream to the udder five weeks before calving. This process is called colostrogenesis. A cow must have a high level of antibodies in her bloodstream to generate colostrum with a high level of IgG. Thus, timing of vaccines is very important. It takes 2-3 weeks after a cow is first vaccinated to achieve a protective level of antibodies. If the cow has never received that vaccine before, antibody levels will subsequently decrease until a second booster dose is given. Once the animal is boostered, antibodies rise to an even higher level and remain fairly steady for an extended period of time. Most vaccines are labeled to be boostered at 3-4 weeks after the initial dose. For the above reasons, optimum timing of scours vaccines is at eight weeks pre-calving if the cow has been previously vaccinated. If it is a new vaccine, the initial dose should be given at 11-12 weeks pre-calving with the second dose given at eight weeks pre-fresh.

One of the largest determinants of colostrum quality is how soon the cow is milked after calving. Because higher milk production has been one of the key genic selections throughout the years, cows today produce colostrum that is very quickly diluted out with milk, lowering the colostrum’s antibody count. Ask any older farmer and they will tell you stories of holding a cow out of the tank for 3-5 days because she was still giving so much colostrum. Many cows now give saleable milk after only three milkings. If you wait eight hours after the cow calves to milk her, she will give a large volume of colostrum but it will be relatively low quality due to milk dilution. Ideally, cows should be milked within an hour after calving for the highest quality colostrum. Another factor is how much colostrum the cow gives at the first milking. Cows producing more than two gallons of colostrum often have lower quality colostrum, even if they are milked right after calving. These cows are such heavy milkers they transition to milk production too rapidly.

Optimum dry cow management is very important. Cows that have a dry period of less than three weeks generally produce poor quality colostrum. They simply haven’t had enough time to accumulate sufficient antibodies in the colostrum to protect the calf. Cows that leak excessively before calving also rarely have high-quality colostrum. As they leak, the colostrum is replaced by milk and lowers the antibody level. In pre-fresh heifers, research has proven heat stress decreases colostrum quality. Cows fed a diet deficient in selenium and Vitamin E also produce less colostrum, while diets low in protein or energy decrease colostrum quality. Thus, dry cows and heifers should receive a well-balanced diet throughout the dry period, and be adequately cooled for at least the last three weeks during the summer.

The final factor is the age of the cow. In general, first-calf heifers produce less colostrum with fewer immunoglobulins. However, as cows get older their colostrum tends to have higher antibody levels. This is not to say heifer colostrum is bad; it should be tested just like every cow’s and used if it is satisfactory. If there isn’t enough volume of colostrum to reach the one-gallon minimum, you may supplement the calf with extra colostrum from another cow or use colostrum replacer.

Do you have questions or comments about colostrum? Feel free to add it to this post.

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Deworming for a Healthy Herd

Written by Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Frequent rains this spring and summer have led to lush, fertile pastures. Grass isn’t the only thing that has flourished with the timely rains though. Parasites reproduce more rapidly in warm, humid weather, too, increasing the risk of economic loss.

  • Internal parasites are a significant problem in pastured cattle. Female worms lay eggs which are passed to the environment through the manure. The eggs hatch into larvae and then climb blades of grass while they are still wet with dew. Cattle ingest the larvae as they graze, and the parasites develop into adults to complete the life cycle.
  • Cattle on dry lots or in confinement rarely battle internal parasites, since grass contact is minimal to non-existent. However, confinement cattle are more exposed to external parasites such as lice and mites, so a pour-on dewormer will be especially beneficial.
  • Roundworms are the most devastating group of internal parasites, infecting the abomasum (true stomach) or intestines. Some roundworms suck blood and cause anemia, while others only damage the lining of the intestinal tract. Roundworms are becoming increasingly resistant to dewormers, making control more challenging.
  • All internal parasites rob nutrients from the animal, thus decreasing feed efficiency, growth rate and milk production if the animal is lactating. Weight loss, diarrhea, a “pot-bellied” appearance, and a long, scraggly hair coat are the most obvious signs. Severe parasitism leads to fluid retention, especially under the jaw, brisket and/or abdomen. Parasites are easily diagnosed by a fecal floatation run by your veterinarian.
  • Young cattle are often the most seriously affected, as they don’t have the fat reserves to cope with nutrient deprivation. Dewormers yield 3-4 times a return on investment due to increased growth rate and feed efficiency, which makes deworming pastured cattle one of the most cost-effective and beneficial decisions you can make.
  • There are many commercially available dewormers, several of which are effective on both internal and external parasites. Consult the dewormer label to see which specific parasites are targeted, and speak with your veterinarian to decide the best choice for your operation.

Do you have questions or comments about parasites and/or dewormers? Feel free to add it to this post. 

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Don’t Forget about Your Cow’s Feet During Summer’s Heat

Written by Dr. Larry Judge, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Hoof BathA good hoof maintenance schedule is one of the most important contributors to a successful dairy operation. Foot health has a direct impact on milk production, and ignoring lameness in a herd can be far more costly than the price of a hoof health program.

Risk factors that can lead to lameness

  • Rough floor surface texture and long travel distance to the parlor add extra wear to hoof horn tissue, resulting in thin soles and abscess formation.
  • Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding can lead to foot rot, hoof lesions, digital dermatitis or all of the above – especially common with animals found standing in manure for extended periods of time.
  • Improper footbath protocol.

Footbath protocols

  • Formaldehyde, copper sulfate with or without acidifiers and zinc are the most commonly used products in footbaths.
  • Frequency of footbath use differs from farm to farm, but four days per week is widely accepted. Though for high lameness incidence rates, continuous use may be necessary until the outbreak is under control.
  • The pH level of the footbath impacts the effectiveness of the product used. When it’s too high the chemicals in the footbath become inactive. It is generally recommended that the pH is between 1.5 – 4. This is often exceeded after roughly 200 cows pass through. The use of pH test strips throughout the process can give an accurate assessment of how many cows can be treated.

Combatting high copper prices

  • Copper is the world’s third most widely used metal. While the market of this commodity is somewhat dependent on the health of the housing industry, copper pricing instability can lead to issues for producers who use the mineral as part of their farm’s hoof health protocol.

Using a copper sulfate extender together with copper sulfate allows for animals to be treated more effectively, for less money and may lower the inability for crop growth due to heavy metals on the fields.

  • Copper extenders don’t impact the way the copper sulfate is used, only how much is used. The frequency and method of the footbath protocol need not be altered to accommodate a copper extender.
  • Copper sulfate and a copper extender are the best combination to treat hooves while maintaining consistency in pricing, but no matter what protocol your farm uses, being proactive with hoof health is a guaranteed return on investment.

Do you have questions or comments about how to develop a hoof health maintenance schedule? Feel free to leave a comment.

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The Importance of Clean Colostrum

Written by Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Feed calves clean colostrumHumans are at a considerable advantage when they enter the world. Babies receive antibodies through the placenta before birth, which neutralize harmful bacteria and viruses and provide immediate protection. Unfortunately, antibodies can’t pass through the cow’s placenta so colostrum is the only source of antibodies available for calves. Clean, timely colostrum administration is vital to calf health and wellness.

Colostrum must be harvested cleanly and as soon as possible after birth to ensure a high level of antibodies. If colostrum is contaminated with manure, the calf absorbs pathogens directly into the bloodstream along with the antibodies. Antibodies bind to the pathogens, leaving fewer antibodies for later protection. Therefore dirty colostrum not only decreases the colostrum quality, it also predisposes the calf to blood poisoning, illness and death.

To monitor colostrum cleanliness, routinely test the bacterial count of colostrum samples right before feeding. The recommended total bacterial count of raw colostrum is less than 50,000 colony-forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL) for maximum effectiveness and absorption. If colostrum is heat-treated, the total bacteria count shouldn’t exceed 20,000 CFU/mL. If bacterial counts are consistently higher, scrutinize the entire colostrum harvesting and feeding process. Test multiple colostrum samples taken throughout the milking and calf feeding routine to see where the breakdown in cleanliness is occurring. Important steps to evaluate are the milking routine and unit, colostrum collection pails and calf feeding equipment. An ATP meter can rapidly identify dirty equipment as well.

Devoting extra time to colostrum cleanliness will equip the calf for a lifetime of success.

Do you have questions or comments about colostrum feeding and calf health? Submit your questions and comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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Get a Head Start on Pest Control

Written by Dr. Armon Hetzel, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Pests can be costly to dairy farmers due to disease transmission and irritation. Whether pests feed upon the animals or are simply a nuisance, pests can reduce milk production and decrease weight gains.

Prevent birds from congregating in free stalls, calf barns and bunkers. They’re flying sources of bacteria and parasites. Bird control methods range from simple solutions such as visual scares (life-like owls or reflective surfaces that blow in the wind) to high-tech laser and electronic products.

Use rodenticides to prevent rat and mice populations from contaminating feed sources. Also keep in mind that while dogs and cats are a welcome addition on many farms, discourage domestic animals from entering feed storage areas.

Control insects using a combination of products that attack at different stages of their life cycle. Larvicides target the larvae stage of a fly and are available in the form of biologicals, baits and feed additives. Adulticides are used to combat adult flies and are found in baits, sprays, pour-ons and traps.

Consider biological options such as fly predators or parasites. These small warriors attack immature flies before they reproduce.

Apply chemical insecticides. There are a wide variety of options including pour-ons, dust bags and oilers, insecticide ear tags, sprays, traps and baits. Rotate products yearly to avoid resistance.

Add feed-through fly control supplements or mineral blocks to your livestock’s feeding regimen to prevent flies from developing and emerging from manure. A general rule is to feed 30 days before the last frost in the spring until 30 days after the last frost in the fall.

Use strategically-placed fans. Many insects are less noticeable on windy days because they have difficulty flying in these conditions. You can create this same condition.

Reduce the number of potential insect breeding areas. Many insects need moisture to reproduce, therefore keep calf housing and stalls as clean and dry as possible. Layer only as much bedding is needed and ensure there is proper drainage in wet areas.

Keep doors and windows closed or install screens in areas where sanitary conditions are most important, such as the milk room.

Rotate pastures to reduce fecal material, which in turn decreases the amount of attractive breeding areas for flies.

Be on the look-out for problem areas such as insect and rodent nests, pooling water, rotting silage or damaged feed bags. Address these areas quickly rather than waiting for the problem to multiply.

As you make pest control preparations, also consider your Pinkeye strategy. Pinkeye is spread by face flies and house flies feeding on secretions and then traveling from animal to animal. Reduce the severity and number of cases in your herd by vaccinating 30 days before the start of fly season with conventional or autogenous vaccines.

Do you have questions or comments about pest control on the farm? Submit your questions and comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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Tail Docking in Dairy Cattle: The End is Near

What’s the Issue?

  • Tail docking practices ending globally
  • The National Milk Producers Federation has set January 1, 2017, as the date for producers to end participation of tail docking
  • Please be aware some co-ops may end tail docking even sooner

 What’s the Impact?

  • Changes to on-farm tail docking protocols
  • Producers will have to use an alternative to tail docking

 ANIMART’s Solution:

The Tailwell2 is safe alternative to tail docking. It is a cordless drill attachment that has circular blades to trim the cow’s tail quickly and easily. The Tailwell2 trims tails in less than 15 seconds and tails stay trimmed for one year. There is no need to precut tails as the Tailwell2 removes all the hair on the end and side of the tail. With trimmed tails, the amount of dirt and manure around the rear quarters and udder of the cow are greatly reduced.

For more information, please call 855.254.6600 or visit animart.com/store/tailwell_2

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ANIMART Holiday Schedule

It’s Holiday season again and with that comes snow, delay’s and closings!

So our employees can spend time with their families, all ANIMART offices will be closed the following days:

  • Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 26th – Closed All Day
  • Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24th – Closed at Noon
  • Christams Day – Friday, December 25th – Closed All Day
  • New Year’s Day – Friday, January 1st – Closed All Day

*Hours will remain 7am-5pm (Monday through Friday)

Friendly Reminders:

  1. Shipping companies will also be closed and limited around the holidays.
  2. Christmas and New Year’s fall on Friday this year. With limited shipping options on the eve of these holidays there will be significant time periods of orders not being shipped or delivered.
  3. Heavy package volumes before and after Christmas can cause shipping delays.
  4. Weather will impact transit times. A two day delivery can easily become a four day delivery if there is snow or ice.
  5. Our website remains open 24/7 if you would like to place an order while our offices are closed.
  6. Most importantly–Happy Holidays from ANIMART. Please let us know if there is something we can do to keep your operation running smoothly.

Any questions?
Just call 800.255.1181.

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June Dairy Month: Thank You Farmers!

Did you know June Dairy Month was established in 1937 as a way to celebrate the dairy industry and promote drinking milk? Today, companies all over the United States celebrate June Dairy Month and ANIMART is one of them.

The dairy industry plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s economy and affects all of us in one way or another.  ANIMART supports the dairy industry by providing sponsorships to organizations such as the Dairy Business Association (DBA), Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW), Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA), FFA Foundation and many more. For a full list of industry organizations ANIMART sponsors visit animart.com/industry-support.

By supporting the dairy industry, we’re supporting the dairy farmer. Farmers care for their animals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Being a dairy farmer is much more complex than just milking cows. Farmers take care of the farm’s operations, but the main priority is the cow’s health and well-being. Cows are milked at specific times each day and are milked two or three times per day depending on the farm. They receive check ups from veterinarians and even get their hooves trimmed.

Dairy farmers have to be problem solvers and great time managers, especially when it’s harvest season. In addition to the normal job of caring for their animals, they also need, to harvesting the crops to feed their herd. Dairy farming really is a family affair since most farms are family own and operated. No matter the season, dairy farmers work long hours, in all weather conditions and are committed to the well-being of their animals and farm.

ANIMART is committed to bringing producers solutions to help their dairy business succeed. We work beyond products by saving producers time, and money as well as offering knowledge and solutions through our full-line of animal health supplies.

At ANIMART we don’t want farmers to feel like customers, we want to be part of their team and help them with their livelihood.

ANIMART Staff
855.254.6600
info@animart.com

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