Focusing on our goals is the best way to achieve them. For most calf raisers, the goals are to keep calves alive, healthy, and growing. Or, in more technical terms, we want low mortality, low morbidity, and the best overall performance possible.
Based on these three simple goals, I found 6 gadgets that help you monitor and track how things are going on any calf operation. By monitoring performance, you can make adjustments before things get out of control, leading to a successful calf program.
Keep Calves Alive (Reduce Mortality)
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) published Gold Standards for mortality:
- 24 hours of age to 60 days of age: < 5%
- 61 to 120 days of age: < 2%
- 121 to 180 days of age: <1%
The key to reducing mortality in any operation is to know what is causing the death of the calves. Is it scours? Dehydration? Pneumonia? Broken leg? Septicemia? There is only one good way to really know what the cause of death is and this is to do a post mortem on every dead calf. But, you do not always have to call the vet.
Gizmo 1: Smart Phone – Take a Picture
Have your veterinarian teach you how to open up a calf so that pictures can be taken and sent to the veterinarian to help you know what the possible cause of death is. I tell my clients to focus on four things:
- Lungs. Are they pink and pliable or are they consolidated and hard? Do they look good or is there a disease going on? Take a picture.
- Intestines. Are they all normal colored or are there dark and bloated areas of the intestinal tract. Take a picture.
- Umbilical cord. Is it soft and pliable or is it enlarged and hardened? Take a picture.
- Kidneys. See if there is fat (white globs of tissue) around the kidney. If the kidney is all pink with no evidence of white tissue around the different folds of tissue, then the calf ran out of energy and the treatment and/or the diet need to be evaluated. Take a picture.
When taking a picture, cut off the ear tag of the dead calf (which you will do anyway) and lay it beside each picture so that when you take the picture, it will be tied into that calf and there will be no confusion over time as to what happened to that calf.
Finally keep a record of every dead calf. This can be in a spiral notebook or on a computer. Keep this permanent record so you can find out what caused the calves to die. If it is a simple broken leg, the calf strangled itself or some other obvious cause of death, just simply record it. But any disease should be documented as noted above.