Q. What are the new medicated milk replacer rules and how will they affect me as a calf feeder?

A. The first change is the ratio of neomycin sulfate (Neomycin, N) to oxytetracycline (Terramycin, T).  The old ratio was 2 parts of N to 1 part of T and the new ratio is 1 to 1.

The second change is the length of time the NT 1:1 can be fed.  Calves are not to be feed medicated milk replacer continuously from birth to weaning. The exception is the feeding of medicated feed containing NT 1:1 for 7 to 14 continuous days for the treatment of bacterial enteritis caused by E coli and bacterial pneumonia caused by P. multocida

So for the calf raiser this means time to go back to the basics of trying to increase the cleanliness of the calf’s environment and improvement of colostrum management.  The goal is to decrease the bacterial load or exposure to the calf and improve the calf’s immunity to fight and protect against bacteria in the environment.

From the calving pen to the calf hutches/pens, we need to maintain high standards for providing a clean and dry environment.  A high plane of nutrition from milk or milk replacer and high quality calf grain are important to supply adequate energy to the growing calf.

Improvement of colostrum management is thoroughly explained by Dr. Sandra Godden’s “5 Q’s of Colostrum Management”

  • Quality—colostrum should contain > 50 g/L IgG.  This is affected by the vaccination and nutrition program of the dry cow.  Also, as the time between calving to obtaining colostrum increases, the quality of the colostrum decreases.
  • Quantity—current recommendation is to feed 10% of body weight at first feeding, i.e., 3.8 L (4 quarts) for a average 90 pound Holstein calf
  • Quickness—the goal is to have the first feeding of colostrum within 1 to 2 hours after birth.  Remember as soon as that calf is born, there is a steady decline in absorption of antibody in the gut.
  • SQueaky clean–The goal is to feed clean colostrum to the calf.   The current recommendation for colostrum cleanliness is to have a total plate count of < 100,000 cfu/ml and fecal coliform count < 10,000 cfu/ml from the colostrum feed to the calf.
  • Quantifying passive transfer (monitoring of serum total protein of a calf).  Total protein can be measured from a blood sample of a calf that is 2-7 days old.  The goal is to have > 90% of calves with a TP > 5.0 g/dl.
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