Looking beyond treatment rates: What are calves really telling us?

Posted on July 20, 2022 in Dairy Performance

During her wet lab presentation at the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference, Dr. Kendra Wells, Valley Veterinary Service, guided attendees through the use of ultrasound technology to identify potential respiratory challenges in calves. Wells shares the following four items to remember about lung health and using lung ultrasound technology as a management tool on the farm.

1. If I find a lung lesion with an ultrasound and you haven’t identified that calf for clinical disease, it doesn’t necessarily mean you missed a sick calf. Most lesions that I catch in calves are subclinical lesions that wouldn’t have caused the calf to exhibit signs of clinical disease. You’re not a bad calf raiser and you’re not a failure; you’re normal and you don’t have ultrasound or x-ray vision.

2. WeanClean™ gives us direction on how to implement lung ultrasound programs on farms. This program was designed by Dr. Terri Ollivett at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Click here to learn more.

3. Once you have your lung ultrasound plan in place, the tool can be used for both treatment and monitoring purposes. I have clients who implemented subclinical treatments and were then able to eliminate hospital pens in grower barns and have had to treat fewer calves as they’ve gotten older. We have also decreased the incidence of outbreaks as we have typically caught issues before they’ve grown into a high-mortality problem. Other herds have noted similar improvements to calf health. To read more, please refer to this article.

4. Lung ultrasound can be used as a method to compare two different groups of calves. For example, do your vaccinated versus unvaccinated calves do better? Do calves fed colostrum versus colostrum replacer do better? Having the extra information can solidify which direction you want to go with your calf program. Many calf researchers are recognizing lung ultrasound as the gold standard for pneumonia detection and are utilizing it in research projects.

Overall, lung ultrasound is a program that can be easily implemented in your herd. We have an outline to guide its implementation, and we will treat and monitor your calves together once we have a program in place. Let’s work together to continue raising the best future for your herd.

Click here to download Wells’ PowerPoint presentation from the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference.

Category: Animal health
Calf and heifer nutrition
Dairy Performance
Technology and data management