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Five Colostrum Storage Tips

Maintaining colostrum quality should be a huge priority on the dairy. The quantity of colostrum a calf receives does not matter if the colostrum is junk. Here are five tips to ensure you’re storing and handling colostrum properly.

1. Don’t pool raw colostrum. Even if the colostrum is going straight into storage it should never be pooled, according to Kimberley Morrill, PhD regional dairy specialist Cornell Cooperative Extension.

2. Feed or refrigerate colostrum within one hour of collection. Colostrum can be stored in the fridge or the freezer. According to research from the National Animal Health Monitoring System of the dairy producers who store colostrum, 21% store it in the fridge and 73% of producers store colostrum in the freezer.

3. If storing in the fridge, only keep colostrum for one week. After that, Bethany Lovaas, DVM University of Minnesota, says quality declines. “If you refrigerate colostrum, be sure that the refrigerator is cold (33 – 35 degree F) to reduce the onset of bacterial growth,” she says.

4. Keep frozen colostrum for six months or less. While not everyone agrees on how long frozen colostrum can be stored without damage to the antibodies, Faith Cullens of Michigan State University Extension says most researchers agree the six month mark is safe.

5. Thaw frozen colostrum with warm water or a microwave. “The main concern regarding thawing frozen colostrum is to thaw the ice without degrading the immune proteins,” says Lovaas. She adds colostrum is best thawed with warm (not hot) water. Add more water to the bath as the frozen colostrum cools down the water. Alternately, Lovaas says colostrum can be thawed in a microwave oven with little damage to the Ig. “It is important to microwave the colostrum for short periods on low power,” she says.


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Baleage is Different Than All Other Forage Making Practices

Baleage is made in round-bale and big-square hay packages so some people assume it is very similar to making dry hay. Others assume because the end product of baleage is a fermented wet silage that it is just like making haylage. According to Dr. Wayne Coblentz, from the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin, making baleage is different in some significant ways than other forage harvesting practices and farmers need to understand those differences if they are to make better quality forage from baleage.

Coblentz spoke in August at the Michigan State University’s Ag Innovation Day in Lake City, Michigan. He highlighted the great advantages of making baleage which include: fewer weather delays, less wilting time required, reduced respiration of plant sugars resulting in better feed quality, reduced dry matter losses in the field compared to dry hay, less storage loss and oftentimes reduced feeding losses compared to hay. Also he added that baleage requires less expensive equipment and offers more flexibility for feeding than does a traditional haylage system. However, he also explained that there are some major differences that forage producers need to understand about baleage to be more successful in making it.

These differences include:

  • Baleage takes longer to ferment than chopped haylage. One reason for this is that the long plant stems in baleage do not release plant sugars as quickly to fuel fermentation as shorter, chopped haylage particles.
  • Baleage usually is not packed as tightly as haylage. This permits more oxygen to be trapped within the bale, allowing extended respiration that further slows fermentation.
  • Baleage is usually drier than chopped silages, which inherently restricts fermentation. Normally, the production of fermentation acids increases with higher forage moisture.

For these and other reasons, baleage goes through a slower and more incomplete fermentation than most chopped silages. This slower process usually allows the forage to remain above a pH of 5.0, and shifts even more emphasis towards maintaining anaerobic (oxygen free) conditions in order to preserve the silage. Air exclusion is then the key to making stable baleage and it is accomplished by wrapping the bales in air tight plastic. This is especially important with drier baled silages (less than 40 percent moisture) that are more permeable to air and are at risk for spoilage should holes in the plastic wrap occur during storage. Baleage that is too wet (greater than 60 percent moisture) can undergo a secondary fermentation that produces butyric acid and ammonia, which can cause depressed animal feed consumption. These clostridial-type of fermentations are more likely to occur in difficult to ensile crops, such as alfalfa, that have high buffering capacity and have very limited amounts of sugar. Cool-season grasses are usually more forgiving in this respect.

To make the highest quality baleage, and to avoid the feeding of a lower quality product Coblentz recommends the following:

  • Make baleage from forages that are harvested at the proper stage of maturity and are of good quality. Do not assume that baled silage techniques will magically improve poor-quality forage.
  • Harvest baleage in the moisture range of 45 – 55 percent. The bales will be lighter to handle, will optimize intake and performance, and will prohibit clostridial activity during fermentation and storage.
  • Make bales that are packed tightly with high density. Excluding as much air as possible from the bale is important. Maximize revolutions within the baler for each bale by slowing ground speed, maintaining appropriate engine rpm, and by baling only moderately sized windrows.
  • Wrap bales with six or more layers of plastic as soon as possible after baling; significant damage may occur after 24-hour or longer delays. Consider using a lactic-acid producing inoculant from a reputable manufacturer anytime conditions are less than optimum.

The key to making high quality baleage is to make a bale within the recommended moisture range that is as dense as possible (> 10 lbs DM/ft3), and wrap it in plastic as quickly as possible. This will allow oxygen depletion to occur rapidly inside the plastic. Once oxygen depletion is complete, fermentation will occur, but because of the slow and limited fermentation within baled silages, maintaining anaerobic conditions is absolutely critical. As such, plastic should be monitored closely for damage, and patched promptly when holes or leaks are discovered.

Some farms are successfully baling very dry silages (25 – 40 percent moisture), and preserving the forage in plastic. Coblentz says these bales typically will not ferment aggressively, and preservation is largely achieved by limiting air access. However, in the absence of air, preservation can be accomplished, provided the producers are diligent about maintaining the integrity of the silage plastic. As forages become drier, there may be increased risk of internal puncturing of the plastic as these drier plant stems become more rigid. This often occurs along the junction of the flat and circumferential sides of the round bale. A small investment in additional plastic layers may be appropriate for these very dry silages.

Baleage has many advantages and continues to grow in popularity. When done right it can make high quality forage that can optimize animal performance.

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Maintain Your TMR Mixer

Mixer Wagon Maintenance

Want to get the most life out of your mixer while maintaining a high quality mix? Maintenance is the answer. Mixer maintenance, beyond greasing, is often overlooked but Mike Everson, a field support representative with Kuhn North America says taking the time to do it is crucial.

“We like to take care of our cattle, mixers need to be maintained on a weekly and monthly basis also,” he says. “We look at the outside on a daily basis but very seldom do farmers look inside.”

Everson recommends farmers take a look inside their mixer at the knives, scrapers and shoes every 90 days. Knives should be sharp. If your mixer wagon’s knifes are beginning to look like butter knives, it’s time to replace them.

“Sometimes a small investment in new knives or scrapers can make a world of difference,” he says.

Also look at the “shoe” at the base of the auger. According to Everson, this is a very inexpensive part, but one that is worn is often the cause of poor mix quality.

“The shoe is the lifeblood of a vertical mixer,” he says.

Everson’s biggest advice? Dig your operating manual, see what the manufacturer recommended for maintenance intervals and then actually follow their guide.

“Maintaining your mixer will insure good mixing quality for the lifetime of the mixer,” he says.

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Fall Noxious Weed Control

This fall most areas are good for fall weed control, but there will also be some areas that it may not be the best.

Fall weed control can give the best weed control but it also can be a poor time. If the noxious weeds were sprayed or clipped earlier this summer and there is good weed growth now, this would be a good time to spray these weeds and get a good kill. However, if the weeds were not controlled early and now are tall, very mature and do not have a lot of regrowth you may not even want to make an effort because it will not do any good.

The questionable area is where the weeds were maybe clipped earlier and there is regrowth or the regrowth is starting to dry up because of the dry conditions and is not growing well. These areas then become questionable to spray. If you want to spray these areas make sure that you use a spray that has residual effect so when the plant starts growing again after a rain, it will be killed then.

Lastly, even though we have not had a freeze we are in September and the perennials have started to prepare for winter by sending nutrients down to the roots to help the plant make it through the cold winter months.

If you have fall spraying for leafy spurge, Canada thistle, sow thistle, wormwood sage, and musk thistle to do now is the time, not when you get busy with harvest in the next few weeks.

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Plan for Winter Dairy Udder Health Now

Sudden shifts in the weather are a stark reminder that dairy producers need to plan ahead to maintain udder health during the winter, says J.W. Schroeder, North Dakota State University Extension Service dairy specialist.

“Winter teat-end lesions are easily triggered when the temperature drops 20 degrees,” he adds. “With inevitable cold winter weather on its way, the advent of teat-end lesions is likely to predispose cows to mastitis.”

Wind chills and temperature changes are the major factors leading to winter teat challenges. Schroeder says the dairy manager’s objectives should be to:

  • Control exposure to weather factors as much as possible.
  • Minimize other teat stressors that exacerbate the problem if cracking or freezing occurs.
  • Keep the teat disinfected, healthy and soft as much as possible through proper milking procedures.
  • Minimize secondary bacterial infections through proper milking practices and environmental sanitation.

“We can’t control the weather, but we can control factors that will ensure cow comfort and the cows’ udder health in the coming weeks,” he says.

Here are ways he suggests producers accomplish those objectives:

  • Control cold temperature exposure by providing windbreaks if animals have to go outside, feeding and housing cows indoors during cold weather when possible, avoiding drafts in buildings by keeping ventilation and openings controlled properly, and avoiding putting animals directly into extreme wind chills post-milking.
  • Control stall/bedding environment by having comfortable, dry areas for animals, providing dry bedding, and maintaining and changing bedding at appropriate intervals. Recent research in Minnesota showed that bedding maintenance is critical to reducing bacterial exposure.
  • Maintain milking equipment by checking vacuum and milk line hoses, pulsators, inflations and vacuum level; keeping pulsators clean; and changing inflations on schedule.
  • Ensure pre-milking sanitation by using procedures that maximize teat disinfection and skin conditioning while minimizing irritation or trauma. Also pre-dip with a good germicidal dip with skin conditioner, blot teats dry instead of rubbing to minimize irritation on problem teats, and use milking hygiene practices like those used to control contagious mastitis (clean hands, gloves and individual towels). Cloth towels are best because they dry teats more thoroughly with less abrasion than other types of towels.
  • Review people/milking machine/time interactions because using proper techniques is imperative to maximize unit performance (maximum flow/unit time) and minimize teat stress (extended milking due to low flow rates or gross overmilking).

“Remember that teat-end changes can occur rapidly in winter with dehydration and cracking, and at other times with acute machine problems,” Schroeder says.

“Minimizing the weather effects through proper facilities and environments is job one. Some practices may need to be altered or adapted during cold weather (dipping, blotting, etc.), and the advantages and disadvantages should be carefully examined when evaluating using new technologies or products such as teat dips.”

To date, researchers have found no protocol that stops cracked teats completely during the winter.

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10 Must-Dos for Transition Cows

The transition period will make or break a lactation and quite possibly the entire productive life of a dairy cow.

Do it right, and cows are primed for healthy, productive lactations. Do it wrong, and cows languish in the hospital pen and become early cull candidates.

“Shift your mindset from the transition cow as a disease opportunity to the transition cow as a production and reproduction opportunity. Begin with the end in mind,” says Tom Overton, a dairy management specialist with Cornell University.

The goals should be to optimize milk production, maintain or minimize the loss of body condition score, metabolic disease and immunocompetence, control days to first ovulation and birth healthy calves. “Our high performing dairies do all of these,” says Overton.

To achieve these goals, Overton has a top 10 list of feeding and management strategies:

1. Manage macromineral/DCAD of dry cows, especially in the last two to three weeks before calving. Feed low potassium and sodium forages, along with anionic supplementation. The amount of anionic supplement will depend on the calculated DCAD content of the ration. Also supplement with magnesium and calcium as needed.

2. Control energy intake in both far-off and close-up diets. Too little can be as bad as too much.

3. Supply enough metabolizable protein before calving. The emphasis should be on bypass protein sources and amino acids.

4. Get the feeding management right—every day. Minimize sorting. The longest straw or hay particles should be less than 1.5”. The dry matter content of the TMR should be 46% to 48%. Add water if necessary.

5. Provide clean, comfortable housing and fresh water. Large, well-groomed stalls or clean, dry bedded packs are essential to cow comfort.

6. Manage social interactions and group hierarchy. Stocking densities of less than 100% are recommended with plenty of bunk space. Also avoid commingling first-calf heifers with older cows, and minimize group changes as much as possible.

7. Manage heat stress. Heat stress during the dry period can result in decreased birth weight of calves, greater incidence of passive immunity transfer failure, poorer immune function of both dam and calf, poorer feed efficiency and decreased milk production during first lactation.

8. Offer high quality forage and fermentable diets to fresh cows. High levels of undigestible forage neutral detergent fiber limits how much a cow can eat, reducing rate of passage and feed intake.

9. Strategically use feed additives and specific nutrients. Choline helps the liver export fat and improve performance. Amino acids improve performance and immunity. Chromium-propionate helps energy metabolism, immune function, dry matter intake and performance. Additives such as monensin can improve energy metabolism and post-partum dry matter intake. Yeast products can improve rumen function, dry matter intake and performance.


10.  Implement cow- and herd-level monitoring programs. Cow-level monitoring seeks to make diagnosis and treatment decisions on individual animals. Weekly herd level monitoring, such as urine pH or ketone testing, helps indicate when changes are needed in feed or management.


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Perennial Weed Control in Grass Hay and Pasture

At the recent Ag Progress Days in Pennsylvania one of the most common questions asked involved perennial weed control in grass hay and pasture. While we still have nice warm days, it is good time to scout pasture and hay fields for the presence of perennial weeds. As you hopefully have heard before, late summer and fall is the best time to control most perennials with a systemic herbicide because herbicides are moved into the root systems allowing more permanent control. With the autumn weather, these plants more actively transport carbohydrates and sugars to underground storage structures such as rhizomes, tubers, and roots to enable them to survive the winter and to provide the necessary energy to begin the next cycle of growth in the spring. Mowing the pasture and hay fields in mid-summer or several weeks before the herbicide application to prevent seed production and to promote healthy new leaf tissue that can intercept the herbicide is also important. In general, the application window runs from early September through October depending on where you are in the state and what weeds you are targeting. For the warmer season perennials like johnsongrass, horsenettle, groundcherry, wirestem muhly, Japanese knotweed and poison ivy, herbicide application between September 1 and 15 is generally ideal. For weeds like hemp dogbane and bindweed, make applications before October 1, and for quackgrass, other cool season grasses, and Canada thistle, try to make applications by October 15. These suggested dates target central PA, so adjust by a week or so forward or backward if you are south or north. Here is a list of the most common herbicides labeled for grass pasture and hay and some of their strengths/precautions.

  • 2,4-D is marketed by various companies with various trade names. Rates generally range from 1 to 2 quarts per acre. Refer to the label provided with the product for specific recommendations and restrictions as formulations vary. 2,4-D provides postemergence control several annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds. Ester formulations are slightly more effective (more leaf-absorbed) than amine formulations, but also slightly more volatile so greater care must be taken when making applications next to sensitive species such as grapes. Interval between application and grazing is 0 to 7 days depending on type of animal and is 30 days for haying. 2,4-D is often tank-mixed with dicamba as a general broadspectrum broadleaf herbicide.
  • Dicamba – Banvel (DMA), Clarity (DGA), Engenia (BAPMA), Fexapan (DGA + VG Tech), and Xtendimax (DGA+VG Tech) provide postemergence control and less than 1 month of soil residual control of a relatively broad spectrum of annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds. Rates vary by formulation but generally can be applied at up to 1 lb ae per acre to established grasses. Interval between application and grazing ranges from 0 to 40 days and 0 to 70 days for haying depending on rate of application and type of animal. Dicamba is often tank-mixed with 2,4-D as a general broadspectrum broadleaf herbicide.
  • Crossbow – contains a mixture of 2,4-D ester and triclopyr ester. Generally applied at 1 to 3 quarts per acre. Commonly used for brush control and effective for control of a number of problem weeds including smooth bedstraw. Grazing restrictions range from 0 days up to the next season (for lactating dairy) depending on animal type and 14 days for haying.
  • GrazonNext HL – contains aminopyralid + 2,4-D amine. This product was formerly marketed as ForeFront HL in our region and Milestone herbicide contains the single active ingredient aminopyralid. GrazonNext provides postemergence control and 2 to 3 months of soil residual control of many annual, biennial, and perennial weed species in permanent grass pasture. GrazonNext is particularly effective on thistles, horsenettle, and smooth bedstraw. The GrazonNext label has restrictions concerning the use and management of plant residues (hay, straw, mulch, compost) and manure that may contain aminopyralid residues. These include important restrictions concerning the movement and sale of hay products treated with aminopyralid. Be certain you understand and are able to follow these label restrictions before using this product. Interval for application and grazing is 0 days and 7 days for haying.
  • Metsulfuron 60DF – Metsulfuron provides both postemergence control and 2 to 3 months of soil residual control of many annual, biennial, and perennial weed species, and suppression of blackberry and multiflora rose in permanent grass pasture. Metsulfuron is also effective on seedling spiny amaranth. Special precautions are provided on the label for applications to fescue or timothy. Do not use metsulfuron on Italian (annual) or perennial ryegrass, or severe injury will occur. Cimarron Max is a co-pack that contains the active ingredients of metsulfuron and 2,4-D plus dicamba. Cimarron Plus is a premix with the active ingredients metsulfuron and chlorsulfuron (Glean or Telar). Interval for application and grazing and haying is 0 days, however allow time for the herbicide to work before harvesting for hay.
  • Overdrive 70WDG – contains dicamba (Na-Salt) + diflufenzopyr. Overdrive is applied at up to 8oz per acre and provides postemergence control and less than 1 month of soil residual control of several annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds. Interval for application and grazing and haying is 0 days, however allow time for the herbicide to work before harvesting for hay.
  • PastureGard contains triclopyr ester + fluroxypyr and provides postemergence control and 1 to 2 months of soil residual control of many annual, biennial, and perennial weeds as well as many woody plants. Interval for application and grazing and haying is 0 days, however allow time for the herbicide to work before harvesting for hay.
  • Remedy Ultra 4L contains triclopyr ester and provides postemergence control and 1 to 2 months of soil residual control of many annual, biennial, and perennial weeds as well as many woody plants. Interval for application and grazing and haying is 0 days, however allow time for the herbicide to work before harvesting for hay.
  • Stinger 3S contains clopyralid and provides postemergence control and 1 to 3 months of soil residual control of some annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds, but it is primarily used for Canada thistle control. Interval for application and grazing and haying is 0 days, however allow time for the herbicide to work before harvesting for hay.
  • Weedmaster 3.87L contains dicamba DMA + 2,4-D amine and provides postemergence control and less than 1 month of soil residual control of many annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds. Interval between application and grazing ranges from 0 to 7 days depending on type of animal and 37 days for haying.
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LEADelaware accepting applications for next class

LEADelaware designed to help build the next generation of leaders within food, fiber sectors

LEADelaware, the state’s agriculture and natural resources leadership program, is now accepting applications for its fifth fellowship class, which will run for two years starting in January 2018. (Delaware Department of Agriculture)

DOVER, Del. — LEADelaware, the state’s agriculture and natural resources leadership program, is now accepting applications for its fifth fellowship class, which will run for two years starting in January 2018. Applications must be received by Oct. 27; applicants will be notified of their selection in early December.

LEADelaware is designed to help build the next generation of leaders within the food and fiber sectors that influence our food system, our economy and our environment.

“The development of leaders in today’s agricultural and natural resources fields is more important than ever,” said Michael Scuse, Secretary at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, which is a lead partner in the program. “Delaware farmers must have the skills to discuss critical issues with public and policy makers at the local, state and even national levels.”

The program consists of 10 sessions throughout Delaware and Washington, as well as an international agricultural visit. Fellows will learn about agriculture, food systems, policymaking and hands-on leadership skills.

Candidates must be a resident of Delaware or work in Delaware agriculture or natural resources for at least two years. This includes farmers, growers, industry suppliers, agribusiness employees and government agency professionals. Applications are available at or by contacting Grace Wisser at the University of Delaware at or 302-831-4722.

LEADelaware is a partnership between University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, as well as sponsors including MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. and the Delaware Soybean Board. For more information on the program, visit

Delaware Department of Agriculture

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Bargain Hay is No Bargain if it is Poor Quality

Bargain, poor quality hay may actually be more expensive when you factor in waste, lower intake, and nutrient deficiencies that require higher supplementation.

Everyone likes a good bargain, but when it comes to hay, low price often equates to poorer quality. Because hay is often sold by the bale, the amount of savings from the “good bargain” can be reduced substantially if there is a negative impact on herd nutrition. So what constitutes “poor quality hay?”  It is hay that limits how much a cow will eat, has a low energy value, low protein content, and as a result requires a large amount of supplemental feed to support cow performance. Poor quality hay generally results from inadequately fertilized fields and/or harvesting more mature plants to increase yield per acre. This combination of sub-optimal forage management leads to increased plant fiber content, lower digestibility and ultimately lower nutritional value.

How increased fiber impacts hay quality:

Intake is reduced as fiber content increases. Mature or “rank” hay reduces the total amount cows willingly consume each day.   It hurts both their appetite and the amount their rumen can physically hold.  Likewise, the increased fiber content decreases the digestibility of the hay, which also contributes to the gut fill limitation imposed by poor quality hay. Cow intake requirements change throughout the production cycle, but increased intake requirements do not equate to greater intake when the quality is poor.  Just because she needs more nutrients does not mean she will eat more.

Energy limitations result from increased fiber content which decreases the digestibility of the hay. The more mature the hay the less energy that is available from each mouthful. Coupling limited energy availability and reduced intake negatively impacts cow performance. Compounding the nutritional issue is that prior to calving and during lactation cow energy requirements increase and reach their peak. Therefore, poor quality hay reduces cow performance expressed as milk production and reproduction.

Higher fiber content also limits the digestibility and availability of the protein in the hay. Hay quality compromised by low fertility, causes protein content of the forage to be reduced.  Low protein diets from poor quality hay also limits intake of forage because of the deficient nitrogen and protein supply for the rumen microbes, which are actually digesting the forage. Limitations on the protein concentration ultimately limits cow productivity.

Impacts of Poor Quality Hay on Body Condition:

So let’s consider all the characteristics that are limiting in poor quality hay. The hay that limits cow hay intake and nutrient intake lead to the cow mobilizing body tissue to meet nutrient deficiencies.  There is a limited amount of body fat and muscle that a cow can mobilize to support her production.  Mobilization of body fat and muscle over time leads to decreased cow body condition score (BCS). Decreased cow body condition score below the pivotal BCS of 5 leads to decreased cow productivity and decreased cow reproductive performance.

The figures below demonstrate the effect of different hay qualities on estimated cow dry matter intake potential, TDN/energy intake, and crude protein intake relative to what a 1200 lb, average milk potential cow requires during the critical months leading up to calving and after calving. As you can see, hays frequently produced and purchased in the Southeast are quite limiting for cow intake, energy supply, and protein supply.

Bale 1 does an adequate job of maintaining a cow, bale 2 a fair job, but bale 3 and 4 leave much to be desired. The limited intake and energy supply in the hays result in body condition score loss from 5 to 4 by the cows in as few as 25 days for Bale 4 one month before calving, to as long as 217 days after calving for Bale 1 . The conclusion here is that bad hay results in rapid cow body condition score loss at critical times in the production cycle.


The direct cost of bargain hay is only known if you have results of a forage test, know the true quality of the hay is, and decide to fix the problem by purchasing supplements to fill the nutrient deficiencies. Supplemental feeds can improve intake limitations and fill any energy and protein deficiencies. The cost to fix the hay is determined by how large the intake, energy, and protein deficiencies are that need to be fixed, and the cost of the supplements considered. The indirect cost of bargain hay results in decreased cow performance that is manifest as decreased pregnancy rate and weaning weights of calves.

Limitations on hay intake and the deficiencies in energy and protein from the hay lead to increased costs associated with hay feeding. Coupling the cost of the hay, hay waste as result of poor quality hay, and additional supplementation cost all adds up, and eat into enterprise profitability. Bargain hay ultimately costs you twice, first when you purchase the hay and next when you feed it.

To have your hay tested for quality, contact your local Extension agent.  For more information related to this subject, use the following links:

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Acute Bloat Syndrome Dairy Calves

Bloat is a common disorder seen in ruminants, such as cattle. However, bloat observed in young calves is very different from bloat seen in cows. According to Smith (2010), bloat in cows is a result of free gas building up in the rumen (the first component of the bovine’s stomach) and causes distention, or enlargement, of the rumen. This distention of the rumen can impair breathing and result in suffocation of the animal. In contrast, bloat in young calves results from gas build-up in the abomasum, the last of the four compartments of the bovine’s stomach (Smith, 2010). The abomasal bloat observed in young dairy calves is often referred to as Acute Bloat Syndrome (ABS). In a survey conducted by Shoemaker et al. (2007), 276 veterinarians across the country reported ABS to occur on a median of four farms per practitioner. ABS is becoming a widely occurring syndrome, and it is important that dairy farmers are aware of this disorder and remain updated on current research. In order to better understand ABS, it is necessary to know which cattle can be affected, the symptoms associated with the syndrome, the potential causes, the treatments, and the preventative measures for ABS.

Acute bloat syndrome occurs in calves. In most cases, calves are usually 4 to 21 days of age (Shoemaker et al., 2007). According to Marshall (2009), ABS occurs sporadically in dairy calves. Some farms will have multiple cases of ABS at one time. Not only is it a good idea to know when calves are susceptible to ABS, but it is also important to recognize the symptoms.

Understanding the symptoms of ABS is critical because calves that develop the syndrome often die within 6 to 48 hours. According to Van Metre and Callan (2006), the case fatality rate is a very steep 75 to 100%. Although the likelihood of saving the calf is low, it is only possible if symptoms are recognized early. Symptoms of ABS include abdominal distension, depression, colic signs, grinding of teeth and salivation, anorexia, fluid slosh in the abdomen, and dehydration. Less common symptoms include diarrhea and high temperature (Shoemaker et al., 2007). According to Panciera et al. (2007), after experimental induction of ABS in calves, the necropsy showed distention, hemorrhage (internal bleeding), inflammation, mucosal necrosis, and mural emphysema (air build-up in the wall of the stomach). The symptoms of ABS usually include a rapid onset and sometimes are not even observed before death occurs. Calves will eventually die from shock or compromised respiration due to the enlarged stomach, according to Van Metre (2017).

The causes of ABS are not well understood; however, experimental induction of ABS in calves led researchers to believe that the cause of ABS is large quantities of highly fermentable carbohydrates and high concentrations of bacteria containing enzymes capable of fermenting the substrate (Panciera et al., 2007). As a result of these two factors, high levels of gases are produced in the abomasum, causing distention. Although researchers are not certain which exact species of bacteria cause ABS, Clostridium perfringens, Sarcina spp, Streptococcal spp, Escherichia. coli, and Salmonella typhimurium have been identified in the abomasum of affected calves. Further research must be done in order to determine the specific role these bacteria play in ABS. Other factors that can contribute to ABS are related to nutrition and include high volumes of milk replacer, cold milk, high osmolality of milk, high protein  and fat contents in milk, high-energy oral electrolyte solutions, and inconsistent feedings. All of these can cause a slower emptying rate of the abomasum. According to Burgstaller et al. (2017), feeding practices that significantly prolong abomasal emptying can increase rates of gastrointestinal diseases in calves.  This is because the bacteria have more time to ferment the feedstuff, thus producing more gas in the abdomen. Familiarity with these causes of ABS will aid in proper decision-making regarding treatment and prevention of the disorder.

Measures for controlling ABS mainly involve dietary management in lieu of medications or procedures (Marshall, 2009). There are no reliable data on whether or not conventional vaccines are helpful. It is thought that vaccines containing inactivated toxins given to pregnant cows will produce antibodies in the colostrum and help protect the calf (Van Metre, 2017). Antibiotics, such as penicillin or oral Beta-lactam which would target Clostridium spp, can be used, but these are not the best treatment option because the species of the ABS-causing bacteria may be different. Other medications that can be given include rumen tonics and anti-inflammatories (Shoemaker et al., 2007). Bloat-relieving procedures, such as placing a stomach tube or puncturing the abomasum to release air, are not necessarily effective treatment options. Since a stomach tube cannot reach the abomasum, the calf’s front end must be elevated in order to allow the gas to pass to the rumen and out the tube (Van Metre, 2017). Puncturing the abomasum must be done while the calf is dorsally recumbent (lying on its back) because there is a high risk of leakage of abomasal contents into the abdomen (Marshall, 2009). For these reasons, procedures and medications are usually not the best treatment options. Dietary management strategies are the preferred ways to prevent ABS. These include feeding the calves multiple, small meals on a consistent basis, mixing the milk replacer correctly according to manufacturer’s instructions in order to lower osmolality, feeding warm milk, and providing adequate amounts of water (Smith, 2010). These dietary management strategies are easy to apply and will increase the passage of feed through the abomasum to the small intestine. Although these are good treatment options and preventative strategies, farms that were rated good to excellent, based on their management practices, still struggled with ABS.

ABS is a spontaneous and puzzling disease that affects many dairy farms. The calves at risk for ABS, associated symptoms of ABS, the potential causes of ABS, and the treatment and prevention of ABS are important factors that must be studied and understood. Unfortunately, there are still many uncertainties and unknowns about this disorder, and further research is needed in order to learn more about the syndrome and the specific species of bacteria that cause it.

Works Cited

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