Should We Feed Pasteurized Whole Milk to Calves?

Written by Rick Dumm, DVM

Frankly, it is a little embarrassing to even type out the title of this short essay. Another recent headline in a trade magazine read, “In a Pinch, Dump Milk can be Fed to Calves”. Who would have ever dreamt that an industry with a foundation built on milk would have to question the product’s value for calves or express surprise that milk offers an alternative to current practices. Have we lost our way? The calf must think so with some of the products we expect it to eat.

Decades of research, growth charts, nutritional short-cuts, minimalistic feeding and even so-called Intensified Feeding Regimes have left us missing the tree in the forest. Calves are designed to drink milk and equipped to process it better than ANY other food product we can put into them. These babies need milk.

Granted, the reasons that we remove pathogens from milk before offering it for human consumption echo the needs for treating our calf milk with the same caution. Milk is the healthiest, most well-balanced nutritional drink known to man … which is why bacteria and other pathogens thrive there as well. Whether we are talking about non-saleable milk or raw milk straight from the bulk tank, when properly pasteurized and offered to the calf on an appropriate meal plan, there is not a better strategy.

What many consider to be intensified feeding is really just a 10-letter word for normal. There is one word that defines why we find ourselves gingerly skirting around this topic: EXPENSE. For many decades, our entire focus as an industry viewed the calf as an expense. Thankfully, research from Dr. Michael Van Amburgh and Dr. Michael Steele has led us back to colostrum and milk as the cornerstones for tremendous calf health and growth. We now see the calf as an opportunity to invest rather than an expensive seedling that we are waiting for 2 years to bear fruit.

Proper colostrum management will set the calf up for development of its organ systems to reach their full genetic potential … literally by acting on the genes themselves. This optimizes future milk production, immunity, digestion of nutrients and all other health functions. When we follow a strong colostrum program with a diet of whole milk the results are indisputable. Future milk and health functions pay back each dollar invested by 20X. This is a conservative estimate. In some cases, the return is 50X. Money not your main motivation? How about seeing more live calves on the farm and spending fewer precious hours each day treating sick calves.

Fortunately, these are practices that all dairies can afford to try. You already have the raw ingredients to make it a success. Pasteurization technology is affordable and available for all farm sizes. It doesn’t matter if milk is $10 or $20. This investment in the calf is too important to for the future of the dairy.

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Product Review: Bovine Bluelite

By: Dr. Larry Judge, Armor Animal Health Veterinarian

Bovine Bluelite is an electrolyte (water-soluble minerals) that is designed to provide additional nutrients and increase water consumption in cattle during times of stress, such as high environmental temperatures, shipping stress or on-farm handling strain. It provides energy (sugar), vitamins, minerals and contains flavoring to help increase consumption of feed or water cattle. 

The product helps maintain production and increase the health of cattle that may otherwise suffer from dietary deficiencies during periods of reduced feed and/or water consumption. It is available in several sizes (2 lb, 6 lb or 50 lb) and two different forms (powder or pelleted); the product is also available in capsule form to be directly administered to sick or dehydrated cattle. 

Bluelite can be feed to individual cows (e.g., cows with disease conditions in the sick pen) or can be feed to groups of cows (e.g., fresh cow or high production cow pens) by either adding the product to cattle’s water or feed. Use of the product should continue for 5 to 7 days or until cattle’s feed consumption returns to normal levels.

Because Bluelite has been available for over 30 years, it has proven to be a reliable product that consistently delivers extra nutritional support when cattle need it most. With the temperatures on the rise, and likely even hotter days ahead, cattle will surely be stressed by heat and will require your farm to have an abatement plan to help maintain production and health – make Bovine Bluelite part of your strategy to ‘beat the heat’ this year!

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Injectable Pinkeye Treatments

Written by Dr. Jim Heier, Professional Services Veterinarian at Armor Animal Health

Cow with Pink Eye

Pinkeye season is upon us. Pinkeye disease in cattle is defined as infection of the eye area especially the tears and eyeball itself. Pinkeye can start simply as excessive tearing, progressing to cloudy discoloration of the eyeball and ending in ulceration of the cornea on the eyeball. Pinkeye has traditionally been caused by Moraxella bovis; however more recently both Moraxella bovoculi and Mycoplasma bovis have been cultured.

Pinkeye is spread from one animal to another by face flies infecting the tears of the cattle. Seasons with large amounts of flies are the worst periods for pinkeye. However, pinkeye may appear in winter months when animals are confined in barns.

Focus on Prevention

Prevention starts with keeping flies under control by removing stagnant puddles and ponds, keeping grass and brush around buildings neatly cut and providing air movement in barns. Using insecticides to control the fly population can also help decrease disease severity.

Vaccination can be very useful, however traditional pinkeye vaccines only contained Moraxella bovis strains and have not been as effective. Newer pinkeye vaccines have Moraxella bovoculi in them.

Consider Autogenous Pinkeye Vaccines

An alternative is to use an autogenous pinkeye vaccine made up of bacterial cultures taken from one farm or many farms.

Autogenous pinkeye vaccines contain Moraxella bovis and Moraxella bovoculi and sometimes Mycoplasma bovis. The process of creating autogenous vaccines can be expensive if done on a small scale but is cost effective if large doses are produced and used by many farms in a veterinary practice.

Armor Animal Health offers an autogenous pinkeye vaccine that works well. Veterinarians can contact our Professional Services Team for additional details.

Remember pinkeye is caused by face flies. It is simple to control through prevention and early treatment, but is a very serious disease if left untreated, causing blindness and eye loss.

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

Hand Washing


Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. If soap and water aren’t available, cover the entire surface of your hands with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% isopropyl alcohol. Rub your hands until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

WHAT CAN YOUR FARM DO: Make sure soap, towels, and hand sanitizer are readily available

Protect yourself and your employees

Avoid contact with people who are sick. For your farm, this might mean screening employees on arrival. Many industries are taking temporal or oral temperatures of employees at the beginning of their shift. Anyone with a fever is sent home. While this may make for a temporary labor shortage on your farm, it is better than having your entire work force infected and unable to work at once. Employees should be fever-free for 24 hours after discontinuing fever-reducing medication.

If you feel sick yourself, stay home and seek medical attention. Telemedicine is recommended to screen for COVID-19 before going to a physical medical facility. Some counties have mobile testing stations that allow you to be screened in your vehicle as well. Wear a mask and avoid contact with people while you are ill.

Maintain a 6 foot distance between yourself and others. Handshaking and hugging are
discouraged. This “social distancing” helps prevent virus spread via droplets.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when you cough and sneeze. Throw the used tissue away and then wash your hands.

Practice daily hygiene

Daily clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently. This includes door knobs, handles, light switches, counters, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, microwaves and buttons. Wearing gloves during work hours and while out in the public is another protective measure.

Minimize employee meetings so no more than 5 people are in the same room at once. Switching to a telephone conference or an online meeting is a viable option. If a team meeting must be held, have it in a large space so people can be 6 feet apart.

Older people and those whose immune systems are compromised due to other medical conditions are at an increased risk of infection. According to the 2017 ag census, the average age of farm operators is 58 years. 26% of operators are over 65 years. Protect these citizens by staying at home if you are ill or have been around anyone who is COVID positive, and stand at least 6 feet away if you need to meet with an older person.

While these recommendations are particularly important for minimizing COVID spread, they also apply to other everyday illnesses such as influenza and the common cold. Once the pandemic has slowed, hand washing is still the best line of defense against contagious disease.

With schools and many daycares closed, providing childcare for employees so they can continue to work is another consideration. If a safe playing area is available on your farm, a responsible adult could oversee children so employees can focus on their regular tasks.

At this point in time, it is unclear if the human COVID virus can infect animals. Cattle have a different strain of coronavirus that causes diarrhea and respiratory signs. Cattle coronavirus vaccines should NOT be used in humans since their safety in people is unknown. As of March 2020, two dogs have been transiently COVID positive and both dogs had owners who were COVID infected. It is unlikely that pets get sick or can transmit COVID to people, but if you become ill you should avoid touching, feeding, playing or caring for animals.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, consult the CDC’s website for up to date recommendations and strategies to protect yourself and your employees.

What COVID-19 strategies are you using at your farm? Share in our comments.

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Cattle Dewormers

Written by Dr. Angie Garavat, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART


Both internal and external parasites can cause decreased weight gains, decreased reproductive efficiency, decreased milk production, an impaired immune system and disease. With dewormers, the goal is to decrease the economic losses caused by these parasites.

The key management strategy of deworming is knowing when, how often, which product and which animals to treat.

Each farm is different. Diagnostic testing will help identify which internal parasites your farm has, how densely populated the parasites are and the level of resistance.

A global anthelmintic resistance problem is rising. This is the failure of a previously effective product to decrease parasites by at least 95% when used at the recommended dosage. New concepts like refugia help to combat these resistant worms. Refugia means allowing a small number of worms unexposed to a dewormer, reducing the drug resistance selection pressure caused by the dewormer.

We’ve been deworming all of our cattle with highly effective dewormers, causing resistant worms to increase in number. In the last 40 years, we have been choosing from the same 4 classes of anthelmintics.

Worms like to be in warm and wet environments in young animals, as well as stressed older cattle. Keep this in mind when thinking of who and when to deworm. Newer treatment guidelines suggest treating only incoming stressed cattle instead of the resident herd, leaving 10% of your herd untreated. Other recommendations include not using the same class of dewormer each time and refraining from deworming the herd before moving them to a clean pasture (increasing the resistance).

External parasites such as lice, flies, ticks, grubs and mites are just as much of a problem, as the internal parasites. It’s important to ensure that you are protecting against both internal and external parasites in your deworming protocols by incorporating the accurate dosage.

I encourage farmers to ask their veterinarian about which class and which specific dewormers are best for their animals.

Do you have questions or comments about dewormers? Submit them here! We’d love to hear from you. You can also download our “Deworming Protocol” Tech Bulletin for more information.

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Water Quality

Written by Dr. Angela Garavet, Professional Services Veterinarian at ANIMART

Water is the most important nutrient we can give our cattle yet; it is often overlooked. Dairy cows drink on average 30-50 gallons of water a day and produce 1 pound of milk for every 4.5 pounds water consumed. Low quality water means less feed and water consumed. Cleaning and testing your water are essential.

Cleaning: Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can easily build up in waterers and release toxins that cattle can ingest. In order to keep this to a minimum, clean your waterers frequently.

  • Empty water from trough
  • Scrub with stiff bristled brush and detergent
  • Rinse with water
  • To prevent further growth, add diluted, unscented chlorine bleach or copper sulfate crystals

Disinfection Dilution Rates: Rates verify based on the product you use, consult with your veterinarian.

  • 2-3 ounces bleach per 150 gallons (conduct as often as every week)
  • 1.5 tsp into 4.5 oz. warm water first then added to 1,000 gallons water (or equivalent dose to 1ppm) every 4-5 weeks
  • Chlorine dioxide – follow label directions for dilution

Ideally, let the bleach or copper sit one hour before allowing livestock to drink. Adding bleach, copper sulfate, chlorine dioxide or other products to dirty waterers is very ineffective. You first need to clean away organic debris and any buildup of materials.

Testing: Now that you have made sure the way the water is getting to the animals is clean, ensure that the water itself is of high quality. Regular annual testing of your water is recommended.

Sampling: Use clean containers and collect 1-pint samples at random intervals. Pour all samples into a 1-gallon container and mix to take your final sample. Follow specific lab guidelines.

Water tests will show you your water level of:

  • pH
  • Total dissolved solids
  • Nitrates
  • Sulfates
  • Additional factors

Any of these factors can cause livestock health issues. In order to find a solution to your water problem, work with your veterinarian to come up with a solution. These solutions are never quick and easy fixes but are well worth the healthy and productive cattle you will get in return.

Do you have questions or comments about water quality and how it can affect your animals? Submit them here! We’d love to hear from you.

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Dehorning Methods

Written by Dr. Armon Hetzel, ANIMART Professional Services Veterinarian

Calves experience the least amount of stress when dehorned before they are two weeks old. For young calves, two dehorning methods can be used.

Dehorning with Paste

  • Restrain the animal, clip hair overlaying the horn buds and clean the area of hair and
  • Wear gloves and avoid contact with skin or other unprotected
  • Apply paste to a nickel-sized area, covering the entire horn

Note: The paste is effective when the calf is less than three days old. The chemical reaction that burns the horn to prevent growth needs a minimum of 32 degrees to work properly. If in a group pen, calves may lick the paste resulting in mouth trauma. Duct tape can be applied over the paste to prevent calves from rubbing it on other calves.

Dehorning with a Burner

  • Follow operating instructions for the dehorner to ensure proper
  • Restrain the calf, locate the horn bud, press the dehorner so the tip of horn bud is centered inthe
  • Press down firmly, rotating the dehorner back and forth until it’s through the
  • Make sure the skin is freed from the horn a complete 360

Note: To ensure the horn is burned properly, gouge off the horn cap.

If dehorning isn’t done until the calf is older, gouging or wire methods may be required. Use the gouging method on medium to large horns and the wire method on very large horns.

Dehorning by Gouging

  • Properly restrain the animal’s
  • Place the open dehorner around the horn and flush with the animal’s
  • Close the dehorner with a quick, sure-handed movement and maintain enough downwardpressure to create a concave depression in the skull where the horn
  • Cauterize the blood vessels with a hot iron and apply blood stop
  • Apply fly spray if flies are present.

Dehorning with Wire

  • Properly restrain the animal’s
  • Cut an arm’s length piece of obstetrical wire and attach it to wire
  • Place the wire on the back side, or caudal aspect, of the horn flush with the
  • Saw back and forth making sure to stay as close to the scalp as
  • Cauterize the blood vessels with a hot iron and apply blood stop
  • Apply fly spray if flies are present.

Pain Management

Pain management is necessary when using a dehorning method other than paste. Two options are a local anesthesia or an anti-inflammatory drug. The University of Wisconsin-Extension Disbudding/Dehorning Dairy Calves fact sheet* lists lidocaine as an option for local anesthesia and meloxicam as an option for an anti-inflammatory. These drugs require a veterinary prescription under a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). Consult with your veterinarian on selection and proper use of these drugs to avoid harming your animals or causing a drug residue.

* Source:

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Scours Identification and Prevention

by: Megan Miller, Professional Services Veterinarian, ANIMART

Scours is the primary cause of calf death before weaning. It can be a devastating disease infecting many animals, resulting in expensive treatments and negatively impacting the animal’s long-term health and performance.

Signs of scours include the following:

  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood or mucus
  • Dehydration
  • Rough hair coat
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Sometimes fever
  • Death

Four main causes of scours

The four main causes of scours are bacterial, viral, protozoal and nutritional. If unable to perform a necropsy and lab samples, look for the following distinguishing features to help pinpoint the pathogens, especially when calves break with diarrhea. See Table.

Factors that contribute to scours

  1. Difficult calving
  2. Inadequate amounts of or poor-quality colostrum
  3. Dirty environment
  4. Weather extremes
Cause of scours Special agent Age of onset Distinguishing features
Bacterial E. coli Less than 5 days Septicemia (blood poisoning), secere diarrhea, sudden death
Salmonella Anytime Blood/mucous in feces, high fever, pneumonia
Viral Rotavirus 5 days – 2 weeks Often paired with another cause
Coronavirus 5 days – 3 weeks Sneezing, coughing, runny nose
Protozoal (parasites) Cryptosporidium 1 – 4 weeks Long-lasting diarrhea (over 2 weeks)
Coccidia 1 – 6 months Blood/mucous in feces, overcrowded, thing, unthrifty
Nutritional Poor quality milk replacer Anytime Otherwise healthy


Preventing scours

Prevention of scours can be difficult, but there are strategies that can optimize calf health.

  • Encourage the absorption of antibod­ies via the calf’s mouth and gut.
  • Administer antibodies through vaccination of the cow so the cow’s colostrum is full of anti­bodies.
  • Feed the calf high-quality colostrum or colostrum replacer (containing over 150 grams of immunoglobulin G) within the first 12 hours of life, when the calf’s ability to absorb antibodies is at its highest
  • Consider using products that supply antibodies to the calf, helping it fight off bacteria, viruses and toxins.
  • Sanitation is the other means to prevent scours. Remember, a calf explores its environment with its tongue, and the causative agents of scours are contracted orally. Investigate the following areas of your operation:
    • Calving pen
    • Colostrum milking buckets/hoses
    • Esophageal feeders
    • Bottles and nipples
    • Feeding buckets
    • Hutches and pens


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Placing an IV Catheter

Written by Dr. Vicky Lauer, ANIMART Professional Services Veterinarian

blood in tubeIV fluids are the fastest and most effective way to reverse severe dehydration in a calf, and an IV catheter allows for extended fluid therapy.



  1. Lay the calf down with its feet facing away from you.
  2. Find the jugular vein (toward the bottom of the neck between the spine and the windpipe).
  3. Clip and brush off the hair 3 inches above and below the vein from the jaw to the brisket.
  4. Scrub the clipped area with Chlorhexidine scrub using a gauze pad or paper towel. Start at the center of the vein and move outwards.
  5. Rinse the clipped area with rubbing alcohol.
  6. Inject 1 mL of Lidocaine under the skin directly over the jugular vein where you want to place the catheter. Start closer to the head initially, so if the first try is unsuccessful you can move further down the neck. Lidocaine will make a lump that obscures the vein. (Steps 6 and 9 are optional)
  7. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 at least 4 more times.
  8. Put on clean gloves.
  9. Use a scalpel to make a small incision through the entire thickness of the skin where you injected the lidocaine. Always pick up the skin before you cut so you don’t puncture the vein!
  10. Pick up the catheter, being sure to only touch the clear plastic on the end. NEVER touch the white part! If you do, discard the catheter and get a new one. The catheter should remain as close to sterile as possible!
  11. Holding the catheter at a 45° angle to the skin, poke through the skin where you made the incision.
  12. Block off the vein and slowly advance the catheter until you see blood in the catheter.
  13. Bring the catheter almost parallel to the skin and slowly advance it about ¼ of an inch. Blood should flow from the catheter. If blood stops flowing, back up until blood starts flowing and try advancing less this time.
  14. Push off the colored catheter hub while holding the clear part of the catheter still, staying parallel to the skin the entire time. Advance until the white part of the catheter is no longer visible.
  15. Remove the clear part of the catheter. Blood should still be flowing from the colored part of the catheter. If not, remove and discard both portions. Get a new catheter and go back to step 6, choosing a spot lower down on the neck.
  16. Screw a catheter cap onto the end, being careful not to move the catheter.
  17. Carefully pick up a fold of skin directly underneath the catheter and push a 16 gauge needle through both sides. Leave the needle in place.
  18. Thread suture through the needle.
  19. Remove the needle, leaving the suture in place.
  20. Wrap the suture around the middle of the colored part of the catheter behind the tab and tie 3-4 knots to keep the catheter in place.
  21. Connect the IV fluids line.
  22. If fluids aren’t being administered but the catheter will be left in place, flush the catheter with heparinized saline 3-4 times a day to keep it from clogging. It can remain in place 2-3 days with proper care.

Do you have questions or comments about placing an IV Catheter? Feel free to add it to this post.

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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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