Dairy Pipeline: June 2005
Robert E. James
Extension Dairy Scientist,
(540) 231-4770 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The summer season is commonly associated with problems of reduced intake and lower milk production in the lactating dairy cow, but it's also tough on pre-weaned calves. Pay attention to the following as you prepare your calves for the summer season. Calving environment. Box stalls are frequently poorly ventilated and higher temperatures encourage more rapid bacterial growth. Consider calving outside in a shaded well drained pasture or larger well bedded and ventilated calving pens. Shade. Shade cloths can be hung over the calf hutches. In addition, consider raising the rear of hutch with a cinder block to increase air flow through hutches. Position hutches with the openings towards the east or southeast to avoid the later afternoon rays of the sun. More frequent cleaning of feeding buckets and bottles. Water intake is crucial to keeping the calf cool and hydrated. Water intake early in the calve's life encourages calf starter intake, which promotes early weaning. Poorly cleaned buckets will quickly turn green with algae growth which hinders water intake. In some cases the water bucket is also used to feed milk to calves. In these situations bacterial growth is rapid and may enhance onset of diarrhea in calves. Cleaning buckets daily or every other day with hot soapy water followed by a rinse with a dilute bleach solution retards bacterial and algae growth and encourages water intake. Fly control. Flies are common vectors for Salmonella, E. coli and Pinkeye. Effective control begins with elimination of breeding locations near the calf which include accumulated bedding and tall grass and weeds. At Virginia Tech, calf hutches are place on a bed of coarse gravel with sawdust or straw for bedding. Bedding is removed after each calf and each year in June and July the 6 to 12 inch layer of gravel is removed and replaced with fresh gravel. These factors seem simple and involve a lot of common sense, but will frequently be as effective as the latest antibiotic, insect spray or feed additive in assuring healthy, well grown calves.