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.


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.


August Calf Blog

Calves and the Hot Summer Heat!
So how did everyone, or more importantly how did your calves do last month during that heat spell?  Let’s focus this month on the extreme heat and humidity events that the summer months bring.   

Calves have heat stress just like any other animals.  Quite a few years ago I did some research on both heat stress and cold stress in calves.  Both take calories away from immune function and average daily gain.  So ask yourself, is consistency being addressed for both nutrition and sanitation?  If you have more than one person feeding calves these events can become more of a factor than one realizes. 

Lets talk nutrition and heat stress, you still need calves to consume milk.  But on extreme hot days some, mostly younger calves, may shy away from drinking their full milk amount.  So then what is your game plan?  Electrolytes I hope.  Most electrolytes have sugars added into them, I tend to lean on electrolytes that have sugar, sodium bicarb and calcium.  This way they can balance their hydration yet get some added calories throughout the day!  Same in the winter months, calories, calories, calories! 

Did we consistently get fluids into these stressed calves.  The next factor, how are you going to get these fluids into our calves?  Are you bottle feeding, tube feeding, or some require IV.  Are you recording these calves that are getting extra fluids?  Both heat stress and cold stress may influence secondary events so be on your “A” game with record keeping. 

Some of the recent research on Chlorine Dioxide has also shown benefits for reducing pathogens in water used for feeding and a Chlorine Dioxide solution for sanitation purposes. 

We at Calf Star have what it takes for your consistency in feeding calves and the chemical for controlling environmental pathogens.  Please take some time to visit our website for added resources and calf feeding equipment to make your life easier as well as consistent for a healthier animal.  Don’t hesitate to contact your regional representative with questions! 

Current Calf Star promotions include:
0% Financing for 24 months on the Milk Taxi
3.99% on HTST Pasteurizers 


July Calf Blog

How many CALORIES do my Calves actually need?
Good sunny day here in the Midwest.  Finally some actual warm days where I don’t have to put layers on!  So with layers comes the question….How many calories do my calves actually need? 

We usually talk in terms of solids when talking about nutrition in young calves.  Whether you feed whole milk or milk replacer it is all about grocery’s consumed by the calves.  We know that the more colostrum a calf gets at birth correlates to the immune function and growth/milk production or ADG for bull calves.
I was asked, “So how do solids convert to calories when feeding milk replacer?”  I had to dig to find this answer.  Here’s what I came up with: based on a 86# calf fed 2 times per day. 

Say we are feeding a 20/20 all milk powder starting at 12.5% solids just for maintenance in warm weather (above 50 degrees) feeding rate at 1.50# of powder into 2 quarts of water you will received 2,972 calories. 

Now if we move to a 20/20 same product and feed 1.25# powder at a 14% solid we move down to 2,477 calories.  So calories came from the additional powder fed at a 12.5% and 1.5# of milk powder. 

Now another scenario is if you feed a 24/22 all milk at a 14% solid and 1.5# of powder into 2 quarts your calories increase significantly to 3,040 calories.  So what if you feed whole milk, well what we know is milk weighs 8.6# in a gallon based on 3.1% protein, 3.6% fat and 4.8% lactose will equal 3,498 calories. 

The basics:8.6 pounds whole milk x 3.1% protein = .27 pounds of protein from whole milk 1.5 pounds calf starter x 18% protein = .27 pounds of protein from calf starter.

Let’s look at the math of whole milk and the solids content of the popular 20-20 milk replacers.  The feeding rates are based upon 1 gallon Holstein whole-cow milk protein and calorie equivalents per head daily as a minimum feeding rate. 

Milk replacers can supply the same total solids as whole milk but generally not the same nutrition, as milk replacers are generally higher in ash and carbohydrate fractions than that of the equivalent weight of dehydrated powdered whole milk. 

We also need to remember to feed free choice water from the beginning which will help drive starter intakes.  With warmer weather in the picture we still need to remember that all young calves need to be fed to support immune functions and growth.  Calories are not always equal as it is for us watching our nutrition! 


June Calf Blog

It’s Show Season!
Oh boy, cattle are picked out and the list of wants are endless.  Does this happen at your house? 

It’s that time of year we all look forward to but it comes with a lot of patience and enthusiasm.  Do you show cattle and what are your go to’s every year? 

I have a teenage daughter that loves the show ring.  We don’t milk cows so we have turned to leasing these animals.  It gives her the ability to work with some phenomenal people and cattle in the industry.  It’s fun to watch her grow in her excitement in the dairy industry and competing in the ring.  She is so thrilled to have the opportunity to be apart of something each year that continues to grow that network of people. 

It also has expanded her ability to choose animals that she would not have the chance to show if it were not for some wonderful families out there that have adopted her into their show family.  She has the chance to choose different breeds so she can see each breed traits and find the right fit for her.  Trust me, she has had some tough animals to break, of course with the help of Mom & Dad staying close by in the previous years. 

So for you farm families, leasing animals to kids that do not have a chance otherwise to participate in the show ring is truly a rewarding experience for both involved.  I suggest you consider giving it a try!  

See you in the show ring!


May Calf Blog

So What Kind of Leader are You?
So I look at myself and am always analyzing what I could do better when managing both calves and people. I certainly do not have all the answers. 

So I look at myself and am always analyzing what I could do better when managing both calves and people. I certainly do not have all the answers.  It starts with me first.  I can be the one to change and have a positive attitude or you can have a negative attitude which drastically effects the calf care team. I personally prefer to have my glass ½ full and have an I can attitude, those attitudes become addictive to those around you. 

If I have calves that are challenging me and I can’t seem to find the answers I get frustrated very quickly.  Same with people.  I can be very happy and forgiving but when I need to  address an issue, I tend to walk away from confrontation.  However, I am not completely afraid to hit it head on if I need to. 

Have you ever taken a personality trait test.  It’s very interesting to say the least.  It tells you  how you interact with people and the trait you have that will likely make you succeed in your  work place.  

Do you give directions and then walk away or do you explain the whys behind the direction?   When doing farm audits I often tend to find employees are not given the whys or the tools needed to accomplish the task. Lets make sure they are not set up to fail.   Do you also allow them to be a leader on your team.  Giving them authority can truly empower your operation to leap to the next level of management.  Provided we have the correct people in place. 

I am attaching a diagram of the Profile traits, see how you fit in to your own farm team! -Minnie 

April Calf Blog

April Showers Bring May Flowers ☔🌷By: Minnie Ward, Calf Star Midwest Sales Representative Well I can honestly say, I think the end of winter weather is in sight.  At least my water pails are not hockey pucks anymore!
With April showers we typically find more respiratory issues with the moisture in the air.  If air exchanges are a challenge or if you believe you do not have enough air flow for your calves, find someone to fog your facility.  It’s very simple and yet very visual.   How many air changes should we achieve in warmer weather months?  Well, the answer is…it all depends on your facility.  Hutches are all natural exchanges with the calf’s ability to move about where it needs to find fresh clean air.  However, you can add blocks to elevate your hutches in the summer for added air flow.  many calf barns need to be evaluated and usually supported by air inlets, fans, windows, tube fans or a combination. Industry standard is 6 mph for adequate air flow at the calf’s level.  Make sure your individual pens are also set up for the best benefit for cross ventilation.Here are some additional links for added ventilation support: 
Calf Barn Fogging
Swift Start Program – Crystal Creek 
Happy Spring! 😎🌷 Minnie

March Calf Blog

For the Luck of Calves!By: Minnie Ward, Calf Star Midwest Sales Representative I have a question for you this month.  How lucky are you feeling right now with your calf raising skills?
Do you Feel Lucky? 🍀Boy, the past several months have been more than challenging.  First, lets say calves in cold weather climates pose a real obstacle.  We stepped up our feeding program on our farm from twice a day feeding to three times a day in the cold weather we experienced a month ago.  However, the luck was with us.  We did not lose any calves to cold weather but I must say I did lose a few to sever scours.  My office has become my neonatal unit, not ideal but it works! My lucky clover has not appeared yet, as I write this we are under another snow advisory.  My calves have been bedded more times this year than I can remember.  They are having a hard time getting in & out of their hutches and lets say moving panels is not the easiest feat currently. Thank God for my Milk Taxi that allows us to be as consistent at feeding as we can get.  With my machine I can manage temperature, volume fed, and mix my milk replacer.  There is no whisk involved!  Even better, my kids are even excited about feeding calves!  This has helped us raise some pretty awesome heifers. Happy St. Patty’s Day and hopefully our luck will change soon in the weather department!  🍀

February Calf Blog

My Valentine Wish for my Calves!By: Minnie Ward, Calf Star Midwest
Sales Representative 

So, I am not a poetic, mushy kind of person.  However, I do feel very
passionate about my family & calves.  Some may say I obsess over them.  I like them both content & happy.
How do you feel about your calves?

Valentine’s Day may be gone but during the month of February we all
think about cupid and his arrow bringing us love.  Our passion is a love
for our animals.  We care deeply for our little critters that make us do
crazy things in environmentally challenged seasons.  The weather lately has been bitter cold and all I want to do is go inside.  Even though I want to be inside I know I need to make sure all the animals are well bedded and fed so I can feel good about crawling in my own bed at night.  We
might only be dreaming of the extreme warm weather right now but this weather has an effect on your animal care as well.  I make sure they all
either have water or electrolytes in front of them and again make sure
that they are dry.   This winter has been extremely challenging for a lot of people.  On my travels I hear of events regarding struggles with our furry babies under 10 days or weaning animals.  What’s going on?  A lot of
these events weigh heavy on our minds as we live for our calves. 

Last month I mentioned goals, the passion we carry throughout the year
for our animals make us who we are.  We obviously do not send our
calves Valentine’s Day cards but some of us do kiss and pet them
aggressively. Touch?  Do calves feel emotions?  Calves do like us to touch
them, pet them and even play with them.  I do believe they have
emotions.  You can see it in their eyes when we bed them.  They bounce
with happiness!  I tend to find the simple things in life make me the

Remember our little critters and the love we have for them on each and every day and not just Valentine’s Day 🙂

January Calf Blog

2019 Goal Setting for Your Calf Operation

By: Minnie Ward, Calf Star Midwest Sales Representative

Ok, Let’s talk hard core stuff here!  Who likes to set goals?  I am one that sets multiple goals throughout the year.  As we look into the forecast of 2019, are there things you’d like to move forward on in your calf operation?

When I look up the word ‘goals’ it reads: intention, intent, purpose,
design.  Goal means what one intends to accomplish or attain. My goals
can be anywhere from very simple tasks to more in-depth ones.  I put
these goals in writing where I can see them.  If I want others to help with these goals I make sure that I make them easily visible to them.  Some
could say they are revised protocols! 
Whether you want to lower your target mortality, building a new facility, or as simple as washing pails daily.  Set these goals and revisit them
monthly to check in.  To keep yourself held accountable for these goals
share them with someone who will do just that. 

Contact the Calf Star team to help you with your goal setting!