Dr. Steve Hayes, Day 1 Technology – Gizmos or Guesses: Evaluating Tools to Measure Calf Performance

Posted on July 2, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
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Article written by Macy Sarbacker
Most calf raisers have three primary goals, according to Dr. Stephen Hayes with Day 1 Technology. These three goals are: to keep calves alive, to keep calves healthy, and to keep calves growing. Based on these goals, Hayes came up with four gizmos to help you monitor and track how things are going on your calf operation.  Doing so can help you make adjustments to your operation to achieve success.

Gizmo 1: Smartphone
If you lose a calf, learning why and how it died provides value to your herd.  Ask your veterinarian to teach you how to open up a calf. When you open up a calf, you can take pictures with your smartphone to send to your vet to determine the cause of death.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Are the lungs pink and pliable or are they hard and consolidated?
  • Are the intestines normal colored or do they have dark and bloated areas?
  • Is the umbilical cord soft and pliable or is it enlarged and hardened?
  • Do you see fat globs of tissue around the kidneys?

When taking pictures, take a picture of the calf’s ear tag as well so you know which calf faced which issue.  Finally, make sure to keep a record of every calf that dies. This record is important because you can look back at the causes of death and note trends within your calf herd.

Gizmo 2: Colostrometer
The colostrometer has been around for a long time, but we often overlook the importance of its use. The colostrometer evaluates the antibodies in the colostrum and helps you determine if the colostrum is acceptable for the first feeding. After you use your colostrometer, record the quality on the container you are storing your colostrum in to make your job easier when you go back to use the colostrum a second time.

Gizmo 3: Brix refractometer
A Brix refractometer can also be used, like a colostrometer, to determine the quality of colostrum. Advantages of using the Brix over a colostrometer include less temperature sensitivity and greater accuracy in determining quality of colostrum.

Gizmo 4: Clinical refractometer
To monitor passive transfer in the easiest way possible, it is best to collect a blood sample between 24 and 48 hours of age. When you test the blood with the refractometer, you measure the serum proteins in the blood. After passive transfer is determined, you can then focus on monitoring and maintaining overall cleanliness of your facilities.

The use of these different gizmos can remove guesswork from how your calf program is working. When you choose not to monitor calf progress, your program can start to slip away and, before you know it, your calves are not doing well anymore. Take the time to put a program in place that works for you and helps to easily monitor the health of your calves.

Click to access Calf Summit 2014 proceedings

Category: Colostrum management
Starting Strong - Calf Care