Avoiding Disease in Dairy Calves

 

This is the title of a presentation by Professor Geof Smith (North Carolina State University) at a seminar early this year. After announcing there is no ‘magic bullet’ or secret formula to keep young calves health, he continued to say, there are four time proven fundamentals to achieving this goal:

1) Removing the source of infection from the calf’s environment

2) Removing the calf from the contaminated environment

3) Increasing immunity; and

4) Decreasing stress.

Smith stated timely administering of quality colostrum remains #1 priority. He also advises against pooling colostrum, but encourages surplus quality colostrum be frozen for future needs. Further, the three major diseases causing calf death are; diarrhoea, pneumonia and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

In an article earlier this year it was shown diarrhoea is rarely caused by over consumption of milk, but of bacterial contamination. Housing, ventilation and nutrition are the key components for avoiding calf disease.

 Eliminate exposure to cow’s manure. It contains many pathogens immature calf immunity has no capacity to    respond to. Calving pads must be kept clean.

 Overcrowding of pens – Smith recommends 3 square meters/calf

 Identifying disease causes: 1st week – unsanitary calving conditions and/or colostrum delivery. Later sickness tends to be connected to unsanitary housing.

 Air quality. Our normal three-sided calf sheds do not ventilate well. Additional openings in back walls will improve air quality reducing air-born bacterial threat.

 Calves can tolerate cold. Dampness is an obvious haven for bacterial growth and contamination. Bedding should be deep enough that calves can nest enough that their legs are hidden.

 Adequate nutrition. Traditional feeding of 4 litres of fresh milk is not sufficient. Rather, test for solids content (refractometer) and add powder as required to achieve 800 gm of solids daily.

 Studies of stress-induced disease in calves have revealed a number of pathogens that can lie dormant in the gut, but become active when animals are under stress – environmental, nutritional or human induced. Stress also impedes immune response.

From other research data, encouraging grain intake as early as possible is essential. This not just facilitates early weaning, but starch from calf grain mixes will promote skeletal growth far faster than from fibre. Fifty percent of frame growth occurs in the first six months. Restriction of starch intake produces undersized yearlings and first calf heifers that will not ‘grow out’! From three to eight weeks of age, fibre digestion is only 15% to 40%, whereas starch is 50% to 90% digestible to these young calves. A recent question posted on Facebook asked if measuring tapes were a good idea. In a word, YES. Weight gain is one of our goals, but frame growth must accompany it. Lack of starch from calf grain mixes will give weight gain from milk fat, but very little frame growth.

There is no greater joy to calf rearers than watching highly energised calves at play or running wildly in the paddock.

 

CALFMAXTM

CALFMAX is a soluble combination of an ultra-concentrated blend of

Hydrolysed yeast, yeast extract, yeast culture for addition to calf milk

Contains

MOS, Glucans, Galactosamine, Vitamins, Minerals & BOVATEC

Plus a natural plant extract to enhance nutrient absorption

CALFMAX is available directly from Dairytech Nutrition or at the following Rural Stores

South West Vic                                Gippsland                                           Northern Vic

Allansford                                         Leongatha                                          Cohuna

Acme Rural Supplies                       Browns Stockfeeds                     J & R Cooke Trading P/L

Colac                                               Lang Lang                                          Echuca

The Co-op Colac                             Larmax Agribarn                           Kober Ag Intellegence

Noorat                                              Poowong                                           Kyabram

Mt Noorat Farm Supplies                Poowong Dairy & Hardware           Dunstall Rural Supplies

Simpson                                          Drouin                                             Girgarre

E & RA Parlour & Co                      Evison Grain & Produce                  Dunstall Rural Supplies

Terang                                            Yarragon                                          Leitchville

Scanlons Dairy Centre                    Yarragon Rural Supplies                 Lipps Leitchville

Terang Coop                                    Tongala

GTS Farm Supplies

Central Highlands

Creswick

Davies & Rose

If there is no rural store stockist near you, call Dairytech Nutrition 0400 991 814

Or visit our online store at www.dairytechnutrition.com.au

For information and supply of CALFMAX call Dairytech Nutrition 0400 991 814

Does Calf Nutrition Influence Lifetime Milk Production?

 

It has been known for some time that quality colostrum contains up to 180 substances, which were initially thought to be natural growth promotants. However, later research identified these substances as being responsible for activating genes in the newborn calf covering all major bodily functions including milk production, growth, immunity, fertility . . . and more.

More recent work has focused on the potential of nutrition during early life of the calf to influence adult life performance, specifically; this research has centred on nutrition’s influence on mammary development and future lactation performance.

Although several early reports were conflicting as to just what was happening, despite weights of mammary tissue increasing with high planes of nutrition, consensus is growing that beneficial outcomes from early calf-hood nutrition does in fact produce significant development of ‘functional’ mammary tissue. Further, follow-up research on calves fed higher levels of fat and protein during their early weeks of life does enhance adult milk production. Setbacks in the early life of the calf have been well documented as having lifetime production legacies. This more recent research on mammary development may well shed light on why.

In an earlier article we looked at refractometers to ensure solids content of calf milk was a ‘known’, rather than a hope. Research on early calf nutrition compared feeding 0.5 kg milk solids to feeding 1 kg milk solids. The calves fed 1 kg of milk solids had double the weight of the mammary gland. It was also found that this weight gain was spread between the fat pad (the supportive tissue in the mammary gland) and ‘functional’ tissue: a fivefold increase in the fat pad and a sevenfold increase in ‘functional’ tissue. Further investigation of the tissues involved revealed no reduction in DNA, essential for gene expression. This means, through higher milk solids intakes, calves can increase functional mammary tissue mass without altering its composition, and hence it’s later life function.

The impetus for this research grew from feeding strategies aimed at increased growth rates in calves; an obviously beneficial goal. However, concern grew as to possible detrimental effects on adult milk production from the possibility of development of fat deposits that may inhibit milk yield, as is common in heifers calving beyond 24 months or overweight, and cows after long dry periods.

This is a “win/win” scenario. Increased growth rates in early calf-hood, and potential for increasing adult milk production. As discussed in earlier calf article, immunity is a very energy-hungry system. As we increase energy and protein intakes in calves, there are immunity benefits complimenting improved growth rates and mammary development.

CALFMAXTM

CALFMAX is a soluble combination of an ultra-concentrated blend of

Hydrolysed yeast, yeast extract, yeast culture for addition to calf milk

Contains

MOS, Glucans, Galactosamine, Vitamins, Minerals & BOVATEC

Plus a natural plant extract to enhance nutrient absorption

CALFMAX is available directly from Dairytech Nutrition or at the following Rural Stores

South West Vic                 Gippsland                           Northern Vic

Allansford                          Leongatha                          Cohuna

Acme Rural Supplies        Browns Stockfeeds             J & R Cooke Trading P/L

Colac                                Lang Lang                            Echuca

The Co-op Colac              Larmax Agribarn                   Kober Ag Intellegence

Noorat                              Poowong                               Kyabram

Mt Noorat Farm Supplies Poowong Dairy & Hardware Dunstall Rural Supplies

Simpson                           Drouin                                   Girgarre

E & RA Parlour & Co      Evison Grain & Produce         Dunstall Rural Supplies

Terang                           Yarragon                                  Leitchville

Scanlons Dairy Centre    Yarragon Rural Supplies         Lipps Leitchville

Terang Coop                   Tongala

GTS Farm Supplies

Central Highlands

Creswick

Davies & Rose

If there is no rural store stockist near you, call Dairytech Nutrition 0400 991 814

Or visit our online store at www.dairytechnutrition.com.au

For information and supply of CALFMAX call Dairytech Nutrition 0400 991 814

Does Nutrition Influence Profit?

 

There are three aspects associated with dairy farming that can elevate or decimate farm profits, and individual cows especially. Feed, Fertility and Lameness. All three are highly related, outside environmental causes to lameness. So, the answer is YES!

FEED: As obvious as it may seem, feed and fertility are well research-proven limitations to farm profit. Based on the Australian 305 day lactation average milk production, clearly we are underfeeding our cows by at least 4+ kgs DM daily. We have bred cows through genetic advancement that have far greater capacity for converting feed dollars to milk dollars, yet we have not taken advantage of our investment in genetics when our national average milk production is half that of the USA.

I’ve been told for 40 years we are a different industry from the USA. Problem is; we are competing on the same world markets against more efficient milk production systems. Further, cows are cows and feed is feed, irrespective of delivery system; grazed or TMR. Producing more milk from the same fixed costs (land and cow maintenance energy cost), increases our competitiveness, but more so, our profit.

Having the feed to optimise our cows’ capacity for converting it to milk dollars is a multifaceted issue we’ll look more closely at next month under the heading of Feed Budgeting. Suffice to say, as all my consultancy clients know, number one is allowing cows access to feed per se. From there we look to planning the growing of forages that are highly digestible. We can fill a cow to contentment with hay, but she will not convert that hay to much milk. Worse still, the conversion of hay dollars to milk dollars is not profitable due mostly to very slow digestibility rates that limit daily dry matter intakes.

From here we look at energy and protein densities. How much energy and protein is in each kg of dry matter consumed by our cow. She has a physical limit to DM feed intake, so the higher the energy and protein in each kg DM of feed, the higher the total energy/protein intake will be, and obviously, how much milk she will produce daily.

We run a ratio in our diet analysis program of energy to maintenance and production. This ratio is critical in determining feed cost per litre of milk produced. Further, as this ratio shifts according to feed intake, digestibility and energy density, the cost of producing a litre of milk rises or falls rapidly. There is a multiplier effect occurring in the shifts of this ratio; for better or worse.

Feed intake, digestibility and energy/protein density are the ‘macros’ of dairy nutrition and production. However, the next plane is mineral nutrition. Our forages are a ‘mixed bag’ of minerals, some excessive and some deficient. For example, our forages tend to be between excessive, and highly excessive in potassium – fertilizer dependant. Our cows have a massive requirement for calcium, and pastures are very low in calcium; likewise, magnesium. It is essential we supplement our cows to regulate excesses and supply deficiencies. Cows also have a high salt requirement.

Next we need to consider trace minerals. Although they are supplemented in very small amounts, they are highly essential to many biological functions of dairy cows, including our opening claim of feed, fertility and lameness. Trace minerals are not very bioavailable from plant tissue, and hence must be supplemented via mineral premixes in grain.

Following are the critical roles of commonly supplemented trace minerals and vitamins. Copper, Manganese and Zinc play important roles in protein synthesis, vitamin metabolism, the growth of ligaments and immune function. Cobalt is essential to B12 vitamin production in the rumen, and if not limited, will supply all the cows’ need for B12. Vitamins A & D are commonly supplemented despite their natural availability from green forages and sunlight respectively, to ensure no compromised requirement.

There are two other essential supplements that I have left until we look at fertility, as they are critical to that major profit driver. They are; the trace mineral selenium and vitamin E. Both have vital roles in uterine health the therefore fertility. Further, both are antioxidants which have important roles in stabilising fatty acids and soluble vitamins. Their role in reducing toxicity of fats is very significant in our grazing based system as pasture has very high fat. The obvious sign of excessive dietary fats from pasture is suppressed BF%. Antioxidants also prevent the formation of free radicals affecting digestion of feeds and animal health.

Fertility then becomes a natural and serendipitous outcome of a fresh cow that has not suffered excessive negative energy balance from underfeeding, or pre-calving nutrition, has her mineral and vitamin requirements met, and then, a healthy and vital uterus. The one issue that can decimate all the above, is lameness.

Lameness prevention has specific nutritional needs, all of which are mentioned above related to milk production and fertility. However, to highlight a few very necessary preventative measures, we ensure adequate zinc is fed for formation of sound hoof material. Limit weight loss post-calving which can reduce the fat pad and its ‘shock-absorber’ function in the heel, and of course, feed buffering agents and adequate effective fibre for good rumen health and mitigation of sub-optimal ruminal pH (SARA).

Supplementing Biotin in mineral mixes added to grain has significant benefits to hoof integrity.

Addressing environmental causes to lameness such as track maintenance, minimising sharp turns on concrete (exiting rotary platforms especially) or covering with rubber mats will reduce injury and ware to hooves. Applying zinc sulphate and copper sulphate solutions alternately via absorbent mats while exiting dairies are beneficial in drying and hardening soles during wet conditions, reducing risk of stone punctures and bruising.

Despite our best efforts in all the above, I cannot stress enough that failed transition nutrition, which I’ve written on numerous times over the past few months, will severely reduce our ability to enhance our cows’ capacity for profitable lactations through feed, fertility and the absence of lameness. A recent report highlighted the fresh cow’s energy need as being similar to a human running two marathons daily. Nothing impacts post-calving energy (feed intake) like transition nutrition.

Nutrition provides a massive ‘window of opportunity’ from dry-off to pregnancy for highly profitable dairy business.