Posts by Rob Costello, Dairy Technical/Business Support Manager, Milk Specialties Global

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

National Dairy FARM Program Takes Aim At Pain Management

The National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management)1 introduced several updates to it's calf management guidelines which took effect January 1, 2017. The 2017 revision places greater emphasis on employee training and the Veterinarian-Client Patient relationship.

Painful medical procedures and the need to manage the associated pain and stress to animals get detailed attention in this revision. Dehorning/disbudding, castration, branding, and extra teat removal are all procedures performed on calves and require pain management. The practice of tail docking was phased out as of January 1, 2017. Painful medical procedures and discussions of best practices are provided below.

Painful Medical Procedures
  • Castration: castration is acutely painful regardless of procedure used. From an animal care perspective, Surgical and Burdizzo (crushing the chord) may be better options than Banding because pain can be minimized at the time time of surgery and post-operative. Banding has less initial pain, but can be painful for several weeks after applying band or ring.
    Castration should be done at the youngest age possible, and regardless of procedure, immediate pain must be managed according to pain control methods agreed on by the dairy farmer and herd veterinarian.
  • Extra Teat Removal: performed at the youngest possible age to minimize tissue damage and can be conducted concurrently with Dehorning/Disbudding to take advantage of pain relief provided at this time. Use pain mitigation in accordance with recommendations of the herd veterinarian.
  • Branding: Freeze branding is less painful than hot branding. Branding wounds are immediately painful and remain so for at least eight weeks. Brands must never be applied to the face. Farms should work with their veterinarians to determine the need for branding and opting for other forms of identification such as tamper-proof RFID if possible.  
  • Tail Docking. The National Dairy FARM Program opposes the routine tail docking of diary animals, except in extraodinary cases of traumatic injury to the animal. This practice was phased out January 1, 2017.
  • Dehorning/Disbudding: conduct dehorning at earlier possible age, before 8 weeks of age. Local anesthesia, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and sedatives provided benefit to calf welfare. Develop and effective pain management protocol with your veterinarian.

    Caustic paste also causes pain. Protect treated calves from rain and limit social interaction to ensure paste affects only the horn bud area.

Properly administered lidocaine can have a profound effect on the pain experienced by a calf during dehorning. This Calf Management Tips video demonstrates the proper techniques for administering lidocaine and dehorning.

Calf Management Tips: Lidocaine Blocking and Dehorning

Other Recommended Calf Management Practices Include...

  • Acquired immunity from colostrum is the first and most important control measure for diarrhea.
  • 4-5 quarts (10% of body weight) of high quality colostrum (Ig > 50 mg/ml or Brix > 22) in one or two feedings within the first 6-8 hrs of life.  
  • Minimum blood serum IgG of 10.0 g/L or minimum serum total protein of 5.5 g/dL 
  • Colostrum replacements providing 150 to 200 grams IgG are preferred
    Milk or Milk Replacer Feeding
    • 8 or more quarts in 2 or more feedings per day
    • feed via nipple feeding instead of a bucket -- more natural and results in more digestive hormones. See the link "Bottles vs Pails" at the bottom of this post for a more complete discussion on the advantages of nipple feeding.
    Starter and Water 
    • Begin introducing small amounts of fresh palatable high quality starter feed by day 3 and increase the amount offered as the calf consumes more over time
    • Feeding milk or milk replacer should not be a substitute for water. Provide calves with access to water beginning on the first day of life. If continuous access is not possible, water must be made available to allow animals to drink to satiation at least twice per day, and more often during heat stress.
    • Reducing milk allowance gradually over a 7 to 10 day period is preferred (especially when feeding large volumes of milk or milk replacer).
    • Diluting the milk with water or slowly restricting the amount of milk can successfully achieve gradual weaning -- this increases starter intake and minimizes the growth check at weaning. 
    Hygiene (score 1 = clean, 4 = dirty).
    • A clean environment will help limit the influence of bacteria, viruses and protozoa, having a substantial impact on calf growth.
    • 90% of all animals in all pens score 2 or less
    Body Condition Score (BCS 1-4)
    • 99% of all classes of animals with body condition score of 2 or more
    • Temperature and Humidity: for calves less than 1 month of age, shield from drafts (wind speeds >50 ft per minute). Dry bedding is preferred by milk-fed calves and is essential in cold weather conditions. Higher milk/milk replacer feeding rates are required to supplement calories for growing calves and a deep bed of straw is recommended for nesting in cold climates. Clean calf jackets can be used to supplement these cold weather strategies.

    For more information on the FARM Program, check out the links below to the National Dairy FARM Program and to the Animal Care Manual and other program resources.


    Link to Calf Feeding -- Bottles vs. Pails
    Link to National Dairy FARM Program website
    Download Version 3.0 Animal Care Manual

    1The FARM Program is a voluntary program available to all dairy farmers involving on-farm evaluations and verifications to establish best management practices. The program aims at helping participating farms to continuously improve and to demonstrate their commitment to high standards.


    Wednesday, January 25, 2017

    New Organic Calf Milk Replacer

    Organic calf milk replacers have been a rather scarce commodity in the United States. Milk Specialties Global aims at changing that relationship with the introduction of Organi-calf , their new USDA Organic calf milk replacer. For many organic dairies, this may be just the tool to help them finally break the link in Johne's transmission.

    Organi-calf is formulated with organic milk ingredients, organic palm oil and organic carbohydrates to provide an instant calf milk replacer with 20% protein and 22% fat. Thanks to their organic milk ingredient facility in Newport, Nebraska, Milk Specialties has a steady and consistent supply of organic milk proteins.

    A key factor in how readily and completely a milk replacer mixes is protein encapsulation of the fat. This process enables fat to readily go into solution when the powder is mixed with water. Milk Specialties is a major manufacturer of protein encapsulated fats and uses that same technology to produce Organi-calf . Encapsulation also helps ensure that ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the product and are in a form that maximizes digestibility. For more information on encapsulation see The Science of Mixing Milk Replacers post.

    Organi-calf is also formulated with vitamins and minerals to provide the same support for growth and proper development that's provided in other Milk Specialties' milk replacers.

    How big is the need for organic milk replacer? If you assume a daily feeding rate of 1.25 pounds per calf and consider only herd replacements, every 10% of organic raised heifer calves consuming organic milk replacer translates into about 1,000,000 pounds of milk replacer powder annually. And that's just for heifer calves. This is based on 2015 USDA statistics for organic production which puts total organic milk products slightly over 5% of total US production and total organic cows at just under 250,000.

    If you would like more information about Organi-calf  you can follow this link to the Milk Specialties Global contact page and send an email to your regional representative: Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition.

    Organic certification was obtained through OCIA, Organic Crop Improvement Association.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Winterize Your Calf Feeding Program

    Previous posts at Calf Sessions have presented ideas on ramping up your calf feeding program during winter cold stress. I recently combined those feed management ideas with basic environmental management in a movie format. The movie looks at the effect of environmental temperature changes on the calf, especially the young calf which is physiologically not very well equipped to handle environmental stresses.

    When it comes to managing calves in cold weather there are a number of things you can do as the temperature drops. Managing the calf's environment through calf jackets, adequate bedding, minimizing drafts and exposure can have a big impact on the effectiveness of cold weather nutrition strategies. Increasing nutrient intake is a key component of successful cold weather management.

    Rather than providing an extensive movie review, I'll let it speak for itself.