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.”

Healthy calves are more profitable

By Jennifer Carrico

Healthy calves make for more profitable calves, according to Mark Hilton, Purdue University clinical professor in the department of veterinary clinical sciences.

“Health matters when calves are put in feedlots. Our research shows when calves are treated once for sickness, it can decrease profits by about $15 per calf,” said Hilton. “But when calves are treated two or more times, it can affect profits by as much as $140 per calf.”

When cattle prices were inflated in 2014, treating a calf made a difference of $100 per calf on profits. Hilton said high-risk calves—not prior weaned or castrated or lightweight calves—must have a very good health protocol when they are sent to the feedlot or profits are greatly affected.

“Health starts the day the cables are conceived. Cows need good nutrition and proper vaccinations to make sure her calf starts out life healthy,” said Hilton. “You cannot short the cow of what she needs at any time to be able to save money. It will cost you money in the end.”

Hilton said 75 percent of the calf’s growth in utero happens in the last two months of gestation, but the placenta develops early in gestation.

“If the cow is not getting good nutrition early in gestation, 18 months later the calf will have respiratory problems. The lungs develop early and need proper nutrition to develop properly,” said Hilton.

Protein supplementation during gestation leads to heavier weaning weights, heavier carcass weights and better health for the calf. The calf needs proper colostrum after birth and will be three times less likely to get respiratory disease once placed in a feedlot. When calf vigor is high at birth, the calf is more tolerant and gets up more quickly to nurse.

Hilton said proper vaccination of the cowherd will help have better calf health. Giving vaccines that are needed at the proper time is only 2 to 5 percent of the total cost of raising cattle and can make a difference in reducing the cost of treating calves for illness.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all vaccination program. It’s important to work with the herd veterinarian on a health program,” said Hilton. “With nearly all herds purchasing animals to add to the herd, herd health becomes even more important for disease prevention.”

Purchased animals should be dewormed and quarantined upon arrival to analyze their health. Hilton said producers should have their veterinarian call the vet of the producer whom they are purchasing the cattle from in order to know what the health plan has been on those animals.

Parasite control is more effective in an injection or oral dosage versus a pour-on. Hilton said to follow timing and frequency guidelines on the package directions and pour-on should only be used for lice once or twice per year.

“Beef cows are supposed to be low maintenance. Our goal is for zero sickness. With great nutrition, a good vaccination program and a good environment, we will see less sickness,” said Hilton.

Hilton suggested the Sandhills calving system as a good way to help ensure a clean calving environment. In the system, cows start in one grass paddock and after several calves are born, the cows yet to calve are moved to a clean area. This system is continued throughout calving. Hilton said the system helps provide a clean environment for the new calves.

“Sometimes all it takes is a change of the environment to improve health,” said Hilton.

Heifers should have a body score condition of 6.5 to 7, and cows should have a body score condition of 5.5 to 6 for calving. Having bred females in proper condition can improve the quality and quantity of colostrum and will improve the percentage of females that breed back in a reasonable time period.

“If cows are too fat, I’m wasting my money, but if cows are too thin, I’m wasting my investment,” said Hilton. “It’s important to have cows in the proper condition at calving.”

Hilton suggests testing hay and balancing a winter ration for cows to improve calf health in utero, cow colostrum and rebreeding.

Some of the improvements can be made by crossbreeding cattle to improve calf vigor. Hilton said generally a crossbred cow will also live 1.2 years longer than a purebred cow.

Good health helps to market calves also by adding value to the calves. Hilton said feedlot operators like to purchase calves that are preconditioned, have excellent dispositions and have had two rounds of modified live vaccines. An internasal vaccine in June or July can also lead to better immunity. Hilton also suggested castrating calves early and using fly tags to prevent diseases carried by flies.

“Preconditioned calves that have been fed 45 to 60 days post-weaning should bring more at sale time,” said Hilton. “This preconditioning usually improves profits as they require less labor once they enter the feedlot.”

Hilton said calves that have been weaned and are on feed will always bring more money at the salebarn. Eliminating high-risk calves will increase profits.

Reducing stress and having calves that go to the feed bunk is important. Feedlots will generally pay more for calves that have been properly cared for in all aspects of their lives as those calves are more profitable in the end.

“Healthy calves will produce the best possible product for the consumers in the end,” said Hilton.

Feeding Poor Quality Hay

Posted by Travis Meteer on http://web.extension.illinois.edu/oardc/eb275/entry_10699/

Remember what a miserable year it was trying to get dry hay put up? In west-central Illinois, the rainy weather made it near impossible. In the month of May, we recorded rainfall on 15 of 31 days. In June, rainfall was recorded on 19 of 30 days. Here at the Orr Research Center in Perry rainfall totaled 26.5 inches for the months of May, June, and July. That is 68% of the normal annual rainfall in just 3 months.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude there are copious amounts of poor quality hay to be fed this winter. So what should you be aware of? What can you do to offset the lower nutritive value of this year’s hay?

First, a producer should take time to visually appraise the hay. Go ahead and smell it too. Is it moldy? Does it smell musty? Are the stems big and thick? Are weeds present? Are they woody? Are they spiny or thorny?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then hay intake will be lower. Nutritive value of the hay will likely be lower as well. If the mold infestation is severe, I would not risk feeding it to pregnant or lactating cows. I would consider not feeding it at all. If you must feed it, dilute it or roll it out to allow the cows to pick what they want. Offer them plenty of other feed choices while feeding high risk hay.

Another lurking problem is ergot. Nearly every pasture I was in this spring had some level of infestation. As a result, be looking for black seed heads that will resemble mouse droppings. If you see this, consider not feeding the hay or diluting it with other feedstuffs that are not contaminated.

It would be wise to approach this winter feeding period with a ration that has several components if possible. A diet of hay only has too many risks this year. Hay alone will likely not meet nutrient requirements either. I would consider feeding cornstalks, corn silage, grains, and co-products with your hay. Look at your local bids for feedstuffs. Formulate a least-cost ration with three or four ingredients. This should help mitigate risk of cows consuming too much of a contaminated feed.

I would recommend feeding DDGS or a co-product blend when greater than 7 pounds of corn is needed. Negative associative effects can occur when feeding corn grain greater than 0.5% of cow body weight.

Table 1 and 2 show the amount and cost of supplementing hay with differing energy content.

Table 1. Amount and cost of supplement to meet energy requirements for gestating 1400lb. cow
Hay, TDNCorn, lbCorn, $DDGS, lbDDGS, $
46, low intake9.9$0.678.4$0.54

Corn Price = $3.80/bu.

DDGS Price = $130/ton

Low intake = 1.5% of cow BW instead of 2%

Table 2. Amount and cost of supplement to meet energy requirements for lactating 1400lb. cow
Hay, TDNCorn, lbCorn, $DDGS, lbDDGS, $
46, low intake11.9$0.819.6$0.74

Corn Price = $3.80/bu.

DDGS Price = $130/ton

Low intake = 1.5% of cow BW instead of 2%

Grinding poor quality forages can help increase intake. Be aware of the cost associated with grinding (normally around $10/bale). Also, grinding and mixing hay with other ingredients makes it more difficult for the cow to sort around dangerous components. Thus, it would not be wise to grind moldy or ergot-infested hay and incorporate at high levels of the diet.

Be mindful of the concerns of this year’s hay crop: lower nutritive value, potential mold or ergot contamination, and lower intakes. Understanding the quality of hay can help farmers save cost on supplement, ensure cow’s nutrient requirements are met, and avoid under-supplementing or over-supplementing that may cause poor BCS and subsequent reproduction.


5 factors affecting winter supplementation in beef cattle

5 factors affecting winter supplementation in beef cattle

As winter weather sets in, here are five factors to consider when supplementing the cow herd.

In South Dakota, we’ve been experiencing a mild December so far. With little snow cover, our cattle are still grazing on corn stalks, and aside from a few mild winter storms, we haven’t had to feed too much hay as of yet. Aside from keeping waterers chopped out, we’ve just had to worry about offering lick tubs as supplemental nutrition.

I realize that the weather can change on a dime, and as soon as a major blizzard hits or the typical South Dakota winter chill sets in, we will soon need to feed more hay and increase our supplementation of the cow herd, particularly as they enter late gestation.

When cattle get wet from snow and are exposed to colder temperatures and bitter winter winds, energy requirements increase in the beef herd. There are many factors that impact the type and amount of energy cattle may require, including these five critical factors:

1. Forage quantity

According to Steve Hammack and Ron Gill, Texas A&M University Extension beef cattle specialists, “The amount of available forage obviously affects the need for supplemental feed. If grazing or hay will be limited, take immediate action. Reduce the number of animals in order to lessen the need for supplemental feeding of the remaining cows. As forage supply declines, the opportunity for animals to selectively graze decreases, and so does diet quality. Then, supplementation may become necessary even if animal numbers are reduced.”

2. Forage quality“Poor quality forage has less than 6-7% crude protein (CP) and is low in digestibility, with less than 50% total digestible nutrients (TDN),” say Hammack and Gill. “These deficiencies limit the amount of such forage that an animal can eat. Because both consumption and nutrient content of poor quality forage are low, supplemental needs are high. The amount a cow can eat in a day ranges from as little as 1.5% of body weight for very low quality forage to near 3.0% for very high quality forage. The typical amount is 2.0-2.5%.”

3. Body condition

Hammack and Gill write, “The level of body condition (amount of fat) affects supplemental requirements. Low body condition markedly increases the need for supplemental nutrients, and meeting such needs often is cost prohibitive. Moderate body condition significantly reduces or eliminates the need for supplements. Fleshy cows generally need little if any supplement and the daily amount of forage required often can be reduced. If forage consumption is not reduced, higher production is possible or reserves of stored body energy can be maintained.”

4. Milking level

“Higher milking cows can consume somewhat more forage, but not enough to com- pletely satisfy extra needs,” say Hammack and Gill. “When forage quality is inadequate, higher milking cows need more supplement; from 50% to 100% more may be required for high versus low milk production in cows of the same body size.”

5. Age

“Young animals are still growing and require extra nutrients, but their body size is not as large as mature animals,” they write. “Because of their smaller body size, growing heifers cannot consume as much forage as mature cows. For these reasons, young females require higher quality diets than mature cows and often require more and different supplements.”

In an article for Texas AgriLife Extension, Hammack and Gill explain the various supplementation options and how to calculate how much is needed based off the above factors. Read the entire article here.

What are your strategies for supplementing your herd during the winter months? Share your management practices in the comments section below.

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

October’s timely tips

By Dr. Roy Burris, University of Kentucky Beef Extension

Spring-calving herds

• Schedule a pregnancy examination of cows if not done previously. Winter feeding costs can be minimized by eliminating open cows prior to winterfeeding.

• If you have already done a preweaning working, revaccinate (booster) calves as needed. Treat calves for internal and external parasites. If you vaccinate calves yourself, be sure to store, handle and administer vaccines properly.

• Wean calves before cows lose body condition.

• Obtain weaning weights of your calves and enter. Weaning is the time to do your first round of culling and selecting breeding stock. You can eliminate obviously inferior calves, especially those with wild or nervous dispositions. Consider the number of heifers that you will need to save for your cow herd. Bulls which are old, unsound, roguish, etc. can be culled now. It is not too early to begin thinking about replacements now.

• Use a good record keeping program. Keep good records and treat your cow-calf operation like a business.

• Evaluate the body condition of your cows and improve their condition prior to winter.

Fall-calving herds

• The calving season should be in full swing for fall calvers. Check cows frequently. Identify calves and commercial males should be castrated and implanted.

• It is time to get everything ready for the fall-breeding season, too. Line-up semen, supplies, etc. now and get your bulls ready to go (don’t forget their breeding soundness evaluation).

• Put fall-calving cows on accumulated pasture before the breeding season. This has generally been a good year for moisture. Be sure to save some grass in the breeding pastures.

• Obtain yearling measurements (weight, hip height, scrotal circumference, etc.) on replacement animals—especially for registered ones, check pelvic areas, too.


• If you are purchasing weaned/stressed calves, have your receiving/feeding program in place. Feed a stress ration which contains at least 13% protein and is fairly energy dense.

• Manage to keep newly weaned and/or purchased calves healthy. Calves should be penned in a small lot with adequate feed, water and shade to reduce stress. Careful handling and comfortable, uncrowded conditions can decrease stress.

• When newly-weaned calves are purchased in the fall, sickness and death loss can be a big problem. Work with your veterinarian on a health and receiving program. Consider purchasing CPH-45 feeder calves which are preweaned, vaccinated, bunk-adjusted and treated for parasites.

• Watch calves closely for a few weeks after their arrival. Have a treatment program ready for any health problems. Early recognition of sick cattle improves their chance of recovery. Watch for drooped ears, hollow appearance, reluctance to rise, stiff gait, coughing and dull or sunken eyes. A good “receiving” program is essential to profitability.

General Reminders

• Remove fly-control eartags from all animals, dispose of according to instructions on package. Treat for grubs/lice.

• Avoid prussic acid poisoning which can happen when frosts rupture the plant cells in sorghums, sorghum-sudan hybrids, sudangrass and johnsongrass releasing prussic (hydrocyanic) acid. Fields can be grazed after the plants have dried up after a frost. New growth that occurs in stalk fields is potentially dangerous whether frosted or not.

• Take soil samples for soil analysis to determine pasture fertility needs. Apply phosphate, potash and lime accordingly.

• Test hay quality and make inventory of hay supplies and needs. Make adjustments now – buy feed before you run out in the winter.

• Do not harvest or graze alfalfa now in order for it to replenish root reserves.

Read the full article at http://www.cattlenetwork.com/advice-and-tips/drovers-cowcalf/octobers-timely-tips?ss=advice_and_tips,drovers_cow/calf