Despite all our efforts to grow healthy calves, “we still have sick animals,” says John Champagne, veterinarian and service chief of dairy production medicine at the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, Calif.

“From that standpoint, one of the big issues is being able to find those animals and find them sooner rather than later,” he said during a wet lab at the 2012 Dairy Calf & Heifer Conference. “Our success rate, regardless of the treatment, is going to be better off in that early disease state.”

Setting a good foundation also is important, and is the basis of disease prevention in calves. Aim for excellence in transition cow management, colostrum management and calf nutrition, not just for proper growth and development, but also to give calves the ability to deal with infections, Champagne said. Pathogen control and optimum husbandry practices also pay big dividends in the management of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases of calves.

For more information on colostrum management of Holstein calves, please see Section IV of the DCHA Gold Standards I and Section II in the Gold Standards III.            

Click here for a calf respiratory scoring chart developed by veterinarians at the University of Wisconsin. The document includes scoring parameters and color photos to assist you in tracking the respiratory health of calves.