Regional Calf Report: Eastern Iowa – Stacy Zitelman, Vita Plus

Posted on August 23, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Stacy Zitelman, Vita Plus dairy specialist
July brought many storms with damaging winds and heavy rainfall, followed by a few weeks of high humidity. Keeping calves dry, hydrated and stress-free has been a challenge for producers this summer.

With such a wet summer, bacterial loads are higher in calves, which can directly affect calf health and starter intakes. Starter intake is crucial to determine how well the calf grows. Offer fresh, clean and cool water twice daily to encourage starter intake. It is also important to make sure starter is dry and fresh.

Fly control
Another stressor to calves this time of year is flies. Fly control is critically important on all livestock farms as flies negatively impact dairy calves in two ways:

  • Spread disease such as E. coli and Salmonella
  • Reduce animal comfort, resulting in increased stress and reduced efficiency of growth

Fly control tends to take a back seat this time of year, but it’s important to continue to do everything possible to limit flies. Flies tend to bite more aggressively as we transition into fall. Continue to keep spraying for flies and adding ClariFly® to all feeds on-farm. By continuing to add ClariFly for one month after “fly season,” we can help decrease the population for the upcoming year.

Tips to control flies:

  • Keep feeding areas and equipment clean.
  • Keep starter and water fresh.
  • Minimize the spilling of starter, water and milk around feeding areas.
  • Keep bedding clean and dry.
  • Cut down weeds close to calf and heifer facilities.

Direct-fed microbials
Another hot topic in the industry, since the new veterinary feed directive (VFD) rules went into effect January 1, is direct-fed microbials. Producers are fine-tuning their calf protocols and practices. One product we have seen work well is Liberator, a new direct-fed microbial product for calves. Liberator is a prebiotic and probiotic milk or milk replacer additive for nursery calves designed to promote intestinal integrity and function by supporting intestinal microbial balance in dairy calves.

By supplementing calves with 10g of Liberator twice daily for three to five days following colostrum, or prior to and during periods of stress, we have seen decreased antibiotic treatment rates, decreased incidence of severe scours, and increased weight gain during the first 14 days of age.

Corn silage harvest is right around the corner, which means fall will be upon us soon. Transitioning into cooler weather brings much discussion and many check points to address to best prepare for a successful calf program.  Here’s a calf care checklist as we enter fall:

  • Start the conversation about your winter calf feeding program with your Vita Plus or dealer consultant.
  • Consider your projected calving intensity and evaluate hutch/pen space. Early recognition of intensive calving periods allows us to adjust feeding programs (often feed less milk) to get calves to eat more starter so they can be weaned at a younger age and moved out of the nursery.
  • Make sure calf warmers are working properly.
  • Provide necessary maintenance on the heating element on calf waterers.
  • Face calf hutches to the south beginning in late October or early November.
  • Make sure you have an ample supply of straw for bedding.  Click here for our bedding inventory calculator to help you project your needs.
  • Make sure calf jackets are in top condition, clean and very accessible.

Contact your Vita Plus or dealer consultant to help fine-tune your calf program today.

Category: Animal health
Fly control
Starting Strong - Calf Care