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: https://outagamie.uwex.edu/files/2010/12/Dehorning-Debudding-Dairy-Calves-Factsheet.pdf

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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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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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