I often think and talk about various agricultural topics from the standpoint of management decisions and management practices. One aspect of carrying out good management practices is having and using the right tool for the job. The following article provides a list of seven tools that help provide consistent calf nutrition and care. Ann Hoskins, Calf Products Coordinator with Vita Plus Corp., wrote this article for Progressive Dairyman. This article originally ran in the November 15, 2018 Progressive Dairyman newsletter and is used with permission by Progressive Dairyman and Ann Hoskins.
“Consistency is one of the most important things calves need. They like their diets and schedules to be the same each day. The first step in achieving consistency is ensuring everyone understands calf care procedures and protocols. They should be clearly written, posted and easy to follow.
As you establish and review your protocols, here are seven simple tools that help you be consistent:
1. Digital thermometer
Digital thermometers are quick and accurate. Use one to ensure a correct and consistent temperature for mixing milk replacer or to monitor the feeding temperature of whole milk. Use it to check temperatures on a pasteurizer. As we come into the cold season, a thermometer helps you effectively adjust temperatures to account for variation in the weather.
2. Milk volume meter
Consistent milk volume is essential. Many farms have a system of “metering” milk. Some use a pitcher to measure, mark the insides of pails or attach a measuring stick to the end of the dispensing unit. Others count to a certain number while they fill pails with a nozzle. If labor is consistent, this can be fairly accurate, but all metering strategies should be checked for consistency on a regular basis.
3. Digital scale
Consistent milk solids concentration is as important as temperature and volume. Use a durable digital scale for accurate milk replacer mixing at every meal. Weigh water, milk powder and any additives used. Build a mixing chart based on weights to reduce milk replacer shrink and save money. Not only is this good for the calf, but it also reduces the risk of over- or underfeeding.
A scale should also be used to weigh starter and know how much your calves are eating. Weaning should take place when calves eat 2 to 3 pounds of starter for three days in a row. Do your calf feeders know what that amount looks like in a pail? Knowing how much grain your calves eat can help you make other high-dollar decisions. Are you feeding the right milk program? Are you weaning at the right time? Does your calf starter fit your goals?
4. Long-handled whisk
A lot of whisks used on farms are more flat than round because they have lost wires and have taken a lot of abuse. The whisk must be able to mix solutions into full suspension. A sturdy whisk goes a long way in properly mixing milk replacers, colostrum replacers, electrolytes, etc.
5. Good cleaning agents and equipment
Walk through your cleaning protocols to make sure you have the right detergents, acids and sanitizers to get everything clean. Use proper amounts and the correct temperatures to get the best results when cleaning.
6. Cleaning brushes
Have a bottle brush, nipple brush and esophageal tube brush designated for calf equipment only. Make sure the bristles are still intact and can scrub all those hard-to-reach areas.
7. Drying rack
Every farm should have a good drying rack in a dry area. It should be big enough to hold all calf equipment and allow for adequate drying. Racks should be far enough off the floor that drips or splashes cannot reach the feeding equipment. The drying rack also should be cleaned occasionally, so choose materials that are easy to use and clean.
Consistency in your calf program will always support calf health and performance without adding to your costs.”
Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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