• Provide training and standard operating procedures. Ask your veterinarian to help train employees and set up written protocols. It’s a good idea to cross-train one or two other dairy employees who are not the typical calf caregivers to help with calves in the event of a surge. They should be trained to feed colostrum, dip navels and tag newborn calves, or feed milk, water or grain to pre-weaned calves. Leadley says it’s not a bad idea, either, to hire one or more temporary employees to help provide newborn care and to provide timely colostrum feeding. “They really need to be prepared to do the extra work before the surge happens,” Leadley advises.
• Improve colostrum management. There are five “Qs” of colostrums management: quality, quantity, quickly, sQueeky clean and quantify passive transfer. Yet, shortcuts in colostrum management can occur in a calving surge, including:
• Skipping testing with a colostrometer or refractometer, and just feeding whatever is on hand. You cannot feed enough of low-quality colostrum to get 200 grams of IgG into a calf, Leadley says.
• Cutting back on time. Cheating the time allotment to feed calves means the animals probably will end up with less than the 4 quarts in the first four hours — or the second feeding will be skipped entirely.
• Rinsing equipment rather than washing it. In this instance, biofilms can build up, supporting large bacteria populations on equipment surfaces.
• Not drawing blood to quantify the level of passive transfer.
When too many of these things occur, a producer might consider using a commercial colostrum replacer product — with a standard level of nutrients — as the first feeding after birth.
Geni Wren is the editor of Bovine Veterinarian, a sister publication of Dairy Herd Management.