February 2020 Calf Blog

February 2020 Calf Blog

Nipples? Bottles? Buckets? or Nipple Buckets?

Which do you choose?

During discussions of raising calves, a common question often arises – what’s the best method for feeding calves? Is it nipples, bottles, buckets, or nipple buckets? Well, the answer is quite simple. The best method of feeding milk is the one that works best for you.

Many producers can make any one of these methods work well. Published research suggests that calves do best when fed from buckets, then nipple bottles, and tend to have the most trouble when feeding from nipple pails. It is generally assumed that higher success with buckets and lower success with nipple pails are due to the difficulty in keeping nipples clean. Milk or milk replacers that are not removed from nipples can lead to a build up of bacteria, leading to disease and death of calves.

However, there are some characteristics and features about each method of feeding liquid.   One reason people use bottles is, Full is Full, no measuring needed.

Nipple bottles are the most “natural” of the three methods. Nipples most closely resemble the cow’s teats. This method of feeding liquid is easiest – nearly all calves quickly learn to drink from a nipple bottle (of course, there’s always the occasional “stupid” calf). You can raise the bottle to a sufficient height to allow the calf to attain a natural position – head and neck raised slightly. The main disadvantage of nipple bottles is their size. The vast majority of nipple bottles hold only 2 quarts. So, if you want to feed more than 1 gallon of liquid per day, you’ll need to feed in more than two feedings. There is however now more sizes available and different nipples that help in ease of feeding.

Nipples are the most difficult part of nipple bottles to keep clean.  Often, the small hole in the nipple used to equalize pressure in the bottle can become plugged, forcing the calf to suckle extremely hard to obtain its milk.  These holes should be checked and cleaned out often.

Buckets are easy to use – after you teach the calf to drink from the bucket. Buckets can hold more liquid than bottles, are easy to clean, and can be easily stored or used for other purposes when not feeding calves. However, teaching a calf to drink from a bucket can be frustrating – for you and for the calf. Drinking from a bucket is unnatural – calves prefer to drink “up”, not “down”. And teaching a reluctant calf to drink “down” can be a real test in patience! In my experience, the best way to teach calves to drink from a bucket is to place two fingers (previously moistened with milk) in the calf’s mouth. Let the calf start sucking on your fingers. Using the other hand, slowly lower the calf’s head into the liquid. As soon as the calf’s mouth reaches the surface of the liquid, I’ll open my two fingers slightly to allow liquid to pass between the fingers and into the calf’s mouth. After the calf has consumed some of the liquid, I’ll slowly remove my fingers from its mouth. Usually, it takes at least two attempts (and often many more!) before the calf figures out what’s happening. Often, it’ll “come up for air” and not be able to find the liquid again. You’ll have to repeat the process. Most calves will learn in a few minutes. Other calves may take several days of effort. It’s important to remember that they’re babies and you’re trying to teach them something quite unnatural. Be patient!

Nipple buckets are a cross between bottles and buckets. They have the advantages of bottles with the capacity of buckets. The most common problem with nipple buckets is improper sanitation. It’s very important to keep the nipples clean. This must be done after each feeding, which is not done on too many farms. If the nipples are not cleaned, bacteria may build up inside, exposing the calf to disease causing pathogens. You can do a good job with nipple buckets, but remember, keep it clean!

Most research suggests that there is little biological advantage to any of these feeding methods. The most important thing to consider is sanitation. Clean bottles, buckets and nipples with hot water and a strong disinfectant. We generally use, an antibacterial soap . After cleaning, let the bottles, buckets, (upside down) and nipples dry before the next use. Keep ’em clean and keep ’em healthy

My one liner is bacteria doesn’t like dry environments .

Calf Star handles feeding equipment for any feeding style and also offer Chlorine Dioxide for  your sanitation purposes.  

Let Calf Star be your go to for your calf feeding needs.

Happy February.

-Minnie

January 2020 Calf Blog

January 2020! A New Year, a New Blog Season…

The last few months we have focused on Colostrum and the impact it has on your newborn calf.

Lets talk about the “Liquid Gold” Colostrum and take home ideas for strengthening colostrum management.

  1. Keep good records on colostrum feeding – timing, quantity, quality, periodic checks on bacteria counts. Remember the freezing / thawing process.
  2. Goals: first feeding of 4 quarts of high quality, clean colostrum within first 4 hours of life (large breeds).
  3. Adapt farm protocols to allow colostrum collection as soon as the dam is standing post calving [highest quality colostrum available].
  4. Adapt farm protocols to permit feeding of colostrum within 30 minutes after it is collected (assumes adequate volume and quality). What’s your back up plan?
  5. Adapt farm protocols to permit collection of second and subsequent milking’s (often-called transition milk) and prompt feeding to newborn calves.

Happy New Year…..

Also, if you have questions regarding your calf program or well being of your animals,  please reach out and I will address it in a future blog.

-Minnie

December Calf Blog 2019

Colostrum Freezing and Thawing Process

So the last 2 blogs have been written around Colostrum, the liquid gold!

So, I would like to continue with the topic of Colostrum and discuss the freezing and thawing process.

As you know, colostrum is an excellent source of nutrition and immune proteins that transport protection to the calf.  Because colostrum is so important to the newborn calf, producers need to have options if the cow doesn’t have enough colostrum or the quality isn’t met.  Storing colostrum is one of those options of maintaining a “Colostrum Bank”.

Refrigerating Colostrum: Colostrum can be refrigerated for 1 week before the IgG concentration quality decreases.  Often times you may need to make sure your refrigerator is at the correct temperature.  Set a thermometer in the refrigerator to make sure it holds a temperature of 33-35 F.  Colostrum needs to be chilled as soon as possible to reduce the chance of bacteria growth.  IgG protein molecules will degrade significantly by bacteria growth.  This will reduce the chance for the newborn calf to absorb the IgG’s provided through clean colostrum.

How about freezing: Colostrum can be frozen for up to a year.  Frost Free is not desirable as the freezer goes through freeze-thaw cycles which can change the storage life of good quality colostrum.

Freeze colostrum in 1 gallon or 2 qt. freezer bags (colostrum bags are desired) lay bags flat in the freezer and maintain a temperature of -5F.

Now let’s focus on the thawing process: Our main goal is to thaw the colostrum slowly without destroying the immune protein IgG’s.  The best method is to warm the colostrum to 120F, massaging the bag periodically will help with thawing a bit faster.

The First Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer/Warmer can help with thawing your colostrum faster.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season!

-Minnie

November Calf Blog

Minimizing Bacteria Replication

So last month I focused on Colostrum and the importance of IgG’s.  I am going to go a step further and discuss the bacteria load and the importance of minimizing the bacteria replication.

The importance of early feeding of colostrum to the young calf is critical to protecting the gut of the calf as well as providing immune protection.  But, there is another reason to feed colostrum early.  Delayed colostrum feeding when the colostrum has been milked from the cow means that the bacteria and other pathogens in colostrum will be allowed to grow.  Referencing the growth of bacteria research from University of California, Davis showed that when colostrum was left at room temperature for any period of time the growth of bacteria was overwhelming.  Within 6 hours, the number of bacteria in the colostrum well exceeded 10 million per milliliter.  Our goal is under 10,000.  This amount of bacteria fed to the calf will untimely affect the health of the calf significantly or even cause death.  This is where the importance of IgG’s and either feeding the colostrum ASAP or chilling/freezing the colostrum comes into play.  All of the steps within the first 2-4 hours after birth are very critical.  I always tell producers; You only get this chance ONCE and then it’s gone.  SO do it well.

Colostrum and other milk products are excellent growth media for bacteria.  Unless the cow calves with mastitis or another infection, there should be little contamination of colostrum.  Be sure to minimize contamination of milk from the cow by using clean milking equipment, collection equipment, and feeding equipment.  If your colostrum is sitting more than one hour consider pasteurizing your colostrum milk.  When pasteurizing colostrum, the steps before and after are just as critical as the proper feeding of the calf.

Check out our user friendly, easy to use: First Nurse Colostrum Pasteurizer/Warmer to help with your colostrum pasteurizing needs.