CALFeteria Menu Changes for the Winter

As the weather turns colder there’s been a more frequent addition to our daily lunch menu from the Miner cafeteria: hot soup! On those colder days I’ve seen a lot more people enjoying a cup of soup to help warm them up after being out in the cold. Similarly, as it gets colder you might observe that your older calves are eating more of their starter to help meet their energy requirements. But what about your youngest calves?

Calves less than 3 or 4 weeks of age are probably not consuming enough starter to really contribute to their energy requirements. The youngest calves on your farm are completely dependent on the nutrients consumed in their milk or milk replacer. As the temperature drops it becomes more challenging to meet nutrient requirements for not only growth but also their basic maintenance requirements.

The thermoneutral zone of a calf under 3 weeks of age is between 59 and 77°. Below this and the heat that a calf produces is equal to the amount of heat lost and the calf experiences cold stress. Therefore, to maintain body temperature, the calf must either consume more energy or the calf will be forced to use what limited body reserves it has for this purpose. This prioritization of nutrients will always go first to maintenance (thermal regulation, immune and stress responses and then toward growth.)

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The requirement for maintenance in a calf is quite substantial. Depending on your feeding program the calves on your farm could easily consume enough nutrients to meet their maintenance requirements. However, if you feed 4 to 6 quarts of milk or milk replacer per day then it becomes more challenging to meet maintenance requirements for the youngest calves during cold weather. As an example, the table above estimates the amount (in quarts) of whole milk or milk replacer (20% protein; 20% fat) required to meet the maintenance requirement of an 88-pound calf.

For calves being fed whole milk, if the environmental temperature reaches 23° or below the majority of a 4 qt. allotment is mostly going toward maintenance, leaving little to no nutrients for growth. For calves fed a more conventional milk replacer, the amount required to meet maintenance requirements per day is greater relative to whole milk. Below 41°, much of a 4 qt. allotment of a 20:20 milk replacer would be used for maintenance. As the temperatures drop below 14° almost 5 qts. or more are required for maintenance alone.

Meeting the maintenance requirement becomes more challenging when temperatures fall below 0°, which it often does in the North Country and in other parts of the Northern U.S. Although there are different ranges of feeding levels and milk replacer formulations, the big takeaway is making sure you’re meeting the needs of the calf so that she can meet her maintenance requirements and also continue to grow.

How can we achieve this in cold weather?

  1. Increase amount of milk or milk replacer fed per day. This can be achieved by increasing the quantity, either through an extra feeding or more milk during normal feedings.
  2. Supplement milk replacer with added fat or additional milk solids. With increased solids it is crucial to provide free-choice water.
  3. Switch to a more energy dense milk replacer that is formulated with higher fat concentrations.
  4. Increase starter intake. Make sure you are feeding a palatable starter. It is also very important to continue to provide water during the cold because starter intake is linked with water consumption.

Increasing starter intake is most likely the most challenging task in the youngest calves, so focus on the first three methods to maximize nutrients for maintenance and additional growth. Other calf management practices to keep in mind are to provide deep and dry bedding, calf jackets, minimize drafts, and make sure milk or milk replacer is fed to the calf at or above body temperature at time of delivery.

Now the big question: how are you planning to make changes to your “calf”eteria this winter?

Twitter’s @DFaber84 Finds the Funny in Lousy Milk Prices

@DFaber84 admits it’s hard to stay funny when facing financial challenges, but he says Twitter is how he escapes the worry. ( Farm Journal )

He’s a farmer, father and quickly becoming one of the funniest farmers on Twitter. Dwayne Faber’s Twitter following climbed to over 30,000 this year. It’s humor that helped him gain traction by followers, and it’s that daily dose of humor he hasn’t veered away from yet. The funny tweets continue to flow, despite the many challenges he’s battling as a dairy farmer in Washington State.

“Definitely milk prices, that topline revenue” said Faber, when asked about his biggest challenge. “That’s been the hardest part; milk prices just aren’t there.”

It’s not just the price he and other dairy farmers are getting for their milk that’s an obstacle. It’s also finding enough labor to do the work in a very labor-intensive business.

“Labor has always been an issue; that’s continuing to be an issue,” said Faber. “Living in the Pacific Northwest, anybody with a pulse can go to Seattle and make $25 an hour, and we’re having to compete with that.”

It’s those challenges that can mute anyone’s outlook. After several years of grueling prices, some farmers are becoming jaded, as financial burdens chip away at optimism in farming. Faber says he chose a different route, opting to use Twitter as the place he can escape, ultimately choosing humor over negativity.

“It’s tough, said Faber. “You do look for outlets, and for me Twitter is an outlet. It’s a way to separate a little bit.”

He’s hopeful milk prices will turn around in 2019. He said the optimistic piece today is dairy farmers already faced four straight years of low milk prices. He said at some point, the markets are going to flip, he’s just hoping the turnaround comes soon.

It’s that turnaround that some analysts project could happen in six months; a glimmer of hope Farm Journal’s MILK editor Mike Opperman has been following.

“I think if we pick up on the demand side – both globally and domestically – we’ll help take up some of that supply that’s out there,” said Opperman. “I think that demand starts to come around, and we’ll start to see milk prices start to jump.”

Here Comes Pneumonia Season

Veterinarian Carrie Bargren of River Valley Veterinary Clinic, Plain, Wis., said a calf that experiences pneumonia at less than 3 months of age will be affected well into her lactating career. Bargren shares a list of strategies on which she advises clients to prevent pneumonia in growing replacements. ( Farm Journal )

The calfhood disease with the longest-lasting impact on lifetime performance is – hands down – pneumonia, according to Carrie Bargren, practicing dairy veterinarian at River Valley Veterinary Clinic, Plain, Wis.

“A calf that has had pneumonia, even if she has recovered with treatment, will be 2.4 times more likely to have impaired growth in the first 6 months of life,” said Bargren. “She also will be 2.4 times more likely to die between the ages of 3 months and 2.5 years, and there is the same risk that she will calve 2 months later than her healthy herdmates.”

Bargren explained there are three categories of pneumonia in calves:

  • Aspiration – This form of pneumonia occurs when any solid material is inhaled and enters the lungs. The most common cause is improper use of esophageal feeders when administering colostrum. Aspiration also may occur during a difficult birth when a calf inhales some meconium (first manure) or amniotic fluid. A common source of aspiration in older calves is nipples with holes that are too large, which allow calves to consume milk too quickly.
  • Bacterial – The three primary organisms that cause bacterial pneumonia in calves are Pasteurella multocida, Mannheimia hemolytica, and Mycoplasma species. “Bacterial infections that occur in the first few days of life result from infection within the dam, aspiration or contaminated colostrum,” said Bargren. “As calves grow older, new infections typically are acquired from the environment or other sick calves.”
  • Viral – BRSV, IBR, PI3 and BVDV all can instigate pneumonia in calves. “A viral pneumonia then predisposes calves to acquiring bacterial pneumonia,” said Bargren.

Bargren advises her clients to take the following measures to prevent pneumonia in young calves:

  1. Vaccination – Dry cows can be vaccinated for virtually all of the viral pathogens that cause pneumonia, and the antibodies for them then can be transferred to calves via colostrum. In addition, she said, “a good intranasal vaccine at birth will stimulate the tissues in the airways to make antibodies and be ready to kill respiratory pathogens before they enter the body, providing additional protection for the calf for 4-6 weeks.” She suggests a booster of intranasal vaccine at weaning.
  2. Colostrum delivery – Colostrum is the only immune protection calves have for the first few weeks of life. Bargren recommends feeding 4 quarts within 6 hours after birth, and monitoring colostrum quality with a refractometer. Checking calves for total proteins (TP) to screen for Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT) of immunity is advised to monitor colostrum management.
  3. Housing – “Clean air and deep bedding are the most important factors in preventing disease through housing management,” said Bargren. “Proper ventilation systems in calf barns will bring in clean air and remove contaminated air.” She recommends at least 26 square feet of resting space for calves in hutches or individual pens, and at least 30 square feet per head in group pens. Regardless of type, she said shelter systems should protect calves from extreme heat, cold, wind chill, rain, dust and aerosolized pathogens, all of which can stress immunity.
  4. Nutrition – “Proper nutrition is required for healthy growth rates and to sustain immune function,” said Bargren. “Adjust volume to accommodate for cold temperatures.”

Bargren noted a routine screening program is necessary to detect pneumonia in young calves, especially because their early clinical signs usually are very subtle. “An ideal time to watch for respiratory disease is feeding time,” she suggested. “A newly sick calf will be slower to drink or too uncomfortable to lie down afterward.”

To improve respiratory disease detection and monitor treatment efficacy, Bargren recommends using the Calf Health Scorer app from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Tips for Feeding Water in the Winter

Feeding free-choice water to preweaned calves has been proven to improve rate of gain from birth to weaning by 33%, compared to calves receiving no water.

New York calf and heifer specialist Sam Leadley said part of this increase is due to an accompanying increase in calf starter grain consumed by calves with access to water. That increase in nutrients in turn, supports rumen development and immunity, allowing calves to more effectively grow and fight off disease.

With all these benefits, feeding water is somewhat of a “no-brainer.” But it becomes a little more challenging to put into practice in the winter months, when water pails quickly become Popsicle® molds, and emptying them after freezing is a tedious-if-not-impossible task.

Still, Leadley said, it’s important. “Calves have no less need for water in the winter compared to the warmer months, even though they might drink a little less,” he stated.

In addition, cold temperatures call for an adjustment in water temperature. Calves need to divert energy from growth to maintenance of core body temperature as the ambient temperature declines. For newborn calves, that threshold for environmental temperature is 60˚F; for month-old calves, it’s about 40˚F. “You don’t want to add to that burden by feeding cold water that their bodies must warm up internally,” Leadley advised. “So it makes sense to feed water close to their body temperature – about 102˚F.”

The consultant shares two practices he has seen farms use to effectively deliver water to calves in the winter:

  1. Feed close to predicted consumption – This approach ensures there are few “leftovers” to freeze in water pails. Leadley said the volume of water calves will drink has a fairly direct correlation to the amount of starter grain consumed, so younger calves need less water. “With a little trial and error, you can predict fairly precisely how much water each calf needs daily based on age,” he said.
  2. Develop a “feed and dump” routine – This approach delivers water in a finite timeframe, to which calves usually become quickly accustomed. “On some farms, they feed water, feed grain, and then return and dump any leftover water,” explained Leadley. “Others feed water before noon, take a lunch break, and then return to dump the water.” He said in either case, it is important to establish a routine and stick with it. With consistent implementation, calves learn to drink the water as soon as it is delivered and consume what they want before it is dumped. Also, be sure to dump water into a larger receptacle and dispose of it away from the calf site, to avoid hazardous ice build-up.

With either approach, a valuable side benefit is that fresh water is presented daily. Leadley cited research that showed calves with daily water changes, regardless of season, had a 5% weight-gain advantage compared to calves whose water was changed once a week; and 11% compared to calves with every-other-week changing.

Should Milk Be Fed While Calves are Scouring?

Different ways currently exist for feeding milk or milk replacer while feeding oral rehydration solution to scouring calves. ( Maureen Hanson )

Different ways currently exist for feeding milk or milk replacer while feeding oral rehydration solution to scouring calves. One way is to cut milk out completely and only feed oral rehydration solution for the entire treatment period. Another way is to only feed the oral rehydration solution for 2 days then feed half and half with milk the last day. And the third way is to feed the rehydration solution and milk as well in separate feedings.

Calves need enough energy to maintain their weight as well as their immune system, especially when they are sick. Oral rehydration solutions cannot provide enough energy because they are limited in the amount of glucose that can be added in order to keep the osmolarity of the solution low. Therefore, feeding milk or milk replacer supplies more energy and protein, allowing calves to maintain weight.

One of the studies showing the benefit of milk feeding while treating with rehydration solution was conducted at the University of Illinois. Once scouring occurred, calves were placed onto 3 different treatments. Treatment 1 consisted of only rehydration solution fed for 2 days, after which milk was slowly incorporated back into the diet for 7 days. Treatment 2 consisted of a partial removal of milk during therapy, and treatment 3 was a full feeding of milk as well as rehydration solution for 7 days. Fecal scores did not differ between treatments and body weights were higher for the treatments that incorporated milk in some way, especially the treatment that fed a full allotment of milk for the entire treatment period.

Electrolytes Fig 2
Treatment 1 was oral rehydration solution (ORS) only, treatment 2 was ORS with low feeding of milk and treatment 3 is equal ORS and milk feedings. Adapted from Garthwaite et al., 1994, Journal of Dairy Science 77:835-843.

Should Antibiotics be Given?

If scouring becomes a regular occurrence a veterinarian should be consulted to determine the source and whether antibiotics are appropriate. Also, a few fecal samples should be taken and sent to a diagnostic lab to evaluate the cause of enteric infection. This may help establish a preventative program and save time and labor in treatment of scouring calves.

What Should the Oral Rehydration Solution Contain?

First, an important distinction needs to be made between oral rehydration solutions used for treatment of scouring calves and those used for electrolyte supplementation. The latter are used to supplement extra electrolytes to older, usually weaned calves or cattle during times of stress from transport, weather and other situations that can cause loss of fluids and electrolytes. It is easy to mistake one type for another; however, if the directions require small amounts of powder being mixed into gallons of water, this indicates that the solution is only supplemental and should not be used for treatment of scours in preweaned calves.

One of the most important components of oral rehydration solutions is water. Water is the essential ingredient to a rehydration solution.

Sodium should be included in the solution at 70 to 145 mmol/L. Sodium is tightly regulated by the body and although low amounts of sodium in the body can cause problems (from diarrhea, for example), high amounts can also cause problems. If the sodium offered is too high, calves will need to drink more water to dilute these amounts; this extra water may not be available in the pen or they may be too weak to reach it. Sodium should also be at an average ratio of one to one with glucose to be absorbed efficiently.

Another important ingredient is an energy source such as glucose (dextrose may also be listed but it is only a different name for glucose). Glucose is transported into the intestine on a one to one ratio with sodium and thus helps sodium absorption. However, no more than 200 mmol/L should be included because this may change the osmolarity of the solution. A solution with high osmolarity will draw water out of the intestine instead of into the intestine. When the amount of solutes is high on one side of a semi-permeable membrane, this causes water from the side with a low concentration to be drawn to dilute the contents of the side with a higher concentration. The same happens in the intestine. If the solution in the lumen of the small intestine is too high in solutes, water will come out of the body into the lumen to dilute the contents and end up being excreted instead of absorbed.

Glycine is a non-essential amino acid that is commonly added to oral rehydration solutions and has been shown to enhance absorption of glucose. To calculate the amount that should be included in the oral rehydration solution, the level of glycine should be added to the sodium level and the total should not exceed 145 mmol/L. The total of glycine and sodium should also equal a one to one ratio with glucose.

Alkalinizing agents are added to decrease metabolic acidosis and may also provide some energy. These are usually attached to sodium and include bicarbonate, citrate, lactate, acetate or propionate. One of the most common alkalinizing additions is bicarbonate, which should not be fed directly or within a few hours of whole milk. Bicarbonate and citrate inhibit the formation of the casein curd in the abomasum. If feeding an oral rehydration solution with bicarbonate or citrate, it should be fed about 4 hours after milk feeding. Acetate is the most easily metabolized. Alkalinizing agents should be included at 50 to 80 mmol/L.

Oral rehydration solutions will also contain other electrolytes, especially potassium and chloride, as well as many minerals. Potassium and chloride are needed to maintain pH of the blood and for muscle contractions, especially in the heart. Although little research has concentrated on evaluating amounts of potassium and chloride needed to replenish electrolytes in scouring calves, the range of potassium found in most solutions is 20 to 30 mmol/L and chloride is 50 to 100 mmol/L.

Other additions can include gelling agents such as guar gum, pectin and others. These have not been shown to be largely beneficial nor detrimental. Oral rehydration solutions containing gelling agents reduce diarrhea within hours of feeding and may coat inflamed intestinal mucosa. Slowing down the passage rate of the rehydration solution also may allow the intestine to absorb more nutrients. However, this may also reduce the body’s ability to flush toxins out. More research is needed to determine the advantages and disadvantages of gelling agents.

Many rehydration solutions are also adding direct-fed microbials. These are bacteria that are meant to re-establish the correct ratios of gut microflora. Usually these probiotics consist of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species, both of which work against E. coli and are beneficial to the intestinal environment. There is no published research at this time evaluating direct-fed microbial effects in rehydration solutions. An oral rehydration solution should be chosen based on its ability to provide correct levels of electrolytes and to rehydrate rather than whether it contains microbials.