Regional Calf Report: Southern Wisconsin – Frankie Rathbun, Vita Plus Columbus

Posted on April 20, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Frankie Rathbun, Vita Plus Columbus dairy specialist
Spring has arrived here in southern Wisconsin and we have been experiencing the wet conditions that come along with it. Based on the on-farm observations our team has made and discussions with veterinarians, I believe that respiratory disease has been the number one challenge as we enter spring. Along with that, an increase in Salmonella-related challenges have not only resulted in scours, but also have developed into respiratory issues in some herds. Salmonella can be transferred through saliva, milk, fecal-oral vectors, nasal contact and colostrum. Key factors that impact the spread of Salmonella are cleanliness and ventilation.

Maternity pens and colostrum are two of the main areas where calves are exposed to Salmonella. Cleaning and sanitizing calving pens after each cow is essential, along with minimizing cow-calf interactions after birth. Remember Salmonella needs moisture to survive, so keep calving areas dry and clean dry cow waters to help minimize bacteria growth. As for colostrum, it is always important to keep harvesting equipment clean and separate from sick calf equipment to avoid cross-contamination. Pasteurization does kill Salmonella. If you are not heat-treating colostrum, feed it as soon as possible after harvest or cool colostrum quickly by storing it in smaller containers.

Around this time of year, ventilation tends to come up more in conversation, and has a huge impact on calf health. Barns are starting to open up and curtains start to become a challenge with warm days and cool nights. It is also important to monitor overhead doors as they can be a main source of drafty barns and, if you have positive pressure, the strong gusts of wind through the doors can severely alter how the ventilation system operates. Related to positive pressure tubes, we always like to remind producers to do some cleaning and/or maintenance of both the tubes and fans to make sure they operate correctly for the spring and summer.

Another topic that we like to discuss with producers in the springtime is fly control. Maintaining fly control not only decreases the amount of stressors on calves, but it can also help limit the spread of Salmonella.  Some fly control tips include:

  • Keep feeding areas and equipment clean, especially by minimizing waste (water, milk and starter) around feeding areas.
  • Keep starter and water fresh.
  • Keep bedding clean and dry by bedding more frequently.
  • Keep weeds away from calf and heifer areas.

ClariFly® in calf feed is another management tool used to control flies. It prevents the four most irritating flies (horn flies, house flies, stable flies and face flies) from developing and emerging in manure and should be fed 30 days prior to flies appearing and until 30 days after the first frost.

A change in the seasons also means a change in our calf programs.  Now is the time to take on these projects so our calf care is up-to-par as we head into the busyness of fieldwork and other spring projects.

Category: Animal health
Facility design
Fly control
Starting Strong - Calf Care