4 steps for properly tube feeding colostrum in first 24 hours

4 steps for properly tube feeding colostrum in first 24 hours

Tube feeding a newborn calf can be tricky. Here are four tips to avoid trouble when administering colostrum through a tube and ensuring the long-term health and survival of the calf.

It seems like every calving season, there is always a calf or two that fails to get up and nurse. Perhaps the labor was stressful. Maybe the calf is slow to figure things out. Possibly the first-calf heifer is confused and kicks at the calf. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to avoid having to milk out and tube feed a few calves every year.

It’s critical to get colostrum in the calf within 24 hoursafter birth. This ensures the passive transfer of immunity before the closure of the intestine, which allows the calf to absorb good quality immunoglobulin, explains Michelle Arnold, DVM, University of Kentucky ruminant veterinarian, in a recent article for the Ohio State University Extension Beef Newsletter.

BEEF Roundtable: Considerations for a successful calving season

Arnold says there are four key factors that contribute to the goal of successful passive transfer of immunity and ultimately determine the health and survival of the newborn calf.

1. Quality

Arnold recommends, “Feed a high quality colostrum with a high immunoglobulin concentration (>50 g/L) or use of a good quality powdered colostrum replacer (not a supplement).”

2. Quantity

She also suggests, “Feed an adequate volume of colostrum (2 quarts to beef calves at birth followed by 2 more quarts in 4-6 hours).”

3. Quickly

She advises producers to, “Feed colostrum promptly after birth (within 1-2 hours and again by 6 hours maximum).”

4. Quietly

Finally, she warns, “Passing the tube too quickly may result in damage to the laryngeal area and passage into the trachea and lungs. Handling the calf correctly minimizes this risk.”

To achieve the appropriate quality and quantity as quickly and quietly as possible, she also gives advice on how to properly handle the calf, insert the tube, check placement of the tube, administer the colostrum, remove the tube, and clean the equipment, which you can read here.

Arnold concludes, “Learning to use an esophageal feeder may mean the difference in life or death to a newborn calf. Esophageal feeders can also be used to administer vital electrolytes to scouring calves if reluctant to nurse a bottle.”

4 things ranchers need to know about preventing & treating grass tetany

by in BEEF Daily

Although many ranchers are facing dry conditions right now, for those fortunate producers who have received ample rain this spring, there is the potential for grass tetany when cattle graze on lush spring grasses. It is caused by a magnesium deficiency in mature cattle grazing on lush spring grasses. Here are 4 things ranchers need to know about grass tetany:

1. Recognize the symptoms

Be aware of the symptoms of grass tetany, which can quickly result in death if ignored. According to a recent article on grass tetany on Ag Answers, Tracy Turner advises, “Look for muscles twitching in the flank, lack of muscle coordination, cows grazing away from the rest of the herd, irritability, wide eyes and staring, staggering, collapse, thrashing and coma.”

Photo Credit: USDA

2. Understand the cause

“Now is the time to start thinking about grass tetany and taking steps to prevent it from happening,” says Rory Lewandowski, Ohio State University Extension agriculture and natural resources educator. “Producers who are grazing cattle in areas with cover crops need to also be aware that certain cover crops such as winter wheat and winter rye are considered higher-risk forages with regard to grass tetany. Grass tetany can come on very quickly, so we just want to remind producers to be aware that it is a potential problem so they won’t run into a worst-case situation and lose an animal.”

3. Prevention is key

Lewandowski recommends offering cattle a high-magnesium mineral mix one or two weeks before spring grazing begins and throughout the spring grazing period. He says a free-choice mix should contain 12%-15% magnesium from magnesium oxide. Mix with something like molasses to encourage cattle to eat it and offer approximately 4-ounce portions per cow through spring.

READ: Salt can prevent and treat grass tetany

For another school of thought on prevention, read “Specialists refute grass tetany/salt article.”

4. Treatment options

Heather Smith Thomas writes that offering legume hay with higher levels of calcium and magnesium, as well as supplemental magnesium, are two tactics for prevention and treatment of tetany. For severe cases, administer an intravenous (IV) dose of 200-500 ml of calcium borogluconate solution containing 5% magnesium hypo phosphate or inject 200-300 ml of magnesium sulfate solution (Epsom salts) under the skin. 
For more details on treatment options, read “Protect against tetany.”

Have you ever had to worry about grass tetany? How do you prevent grass tetany in your cattle? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.