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CALVES & HEIFERS

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, sound milk replacer or pasteurized waste milk along with proper bedding and ventilation.

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Like any newborn, calves need to be nurtured early so they can thrive and compete later in life. Her digestive system at birth is designed for milk. She is frequently challenged with digestive sicknesses in her first two weeks of life – followed by respiratory sicknesses in her second and third month of life.

Frequently, she is raised in naturally ventilated, unheated or uncooled housing.

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Commercial milk replacers are often compared and evaluated based on the percentage of protein and fat on the label. Discussion rarely delves into what makes up the components of fat and its effects on digestion, absorption or growth.

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Dykshoorn Farms, located near Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, is a family enterprise. Originally purchased in 1945 by Mike Dykshoorn’s grandfather and his three sons, it has now supported four generations of the Dykshoorn family.

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Colostrum is good for calves. It is the only way we transfer the cow’s immunity to the calf at birth. Having good-quality colostrum is why many dairies have gone to monitoring the quality of their colostrum to make sure they are providing their newborn calves with the highest-quality product they can.

A colostrometer or a BRIX refractometer (preferred) can help them determine on-site if the concentration of antibodies is high enough to give to the newborn calf.

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New data confirms that contaminated colostrum impairs calves. How can you get a cleaner colostrum?

Calves from different dairies, even after they’ve been transferred to a custom raising facility, often have different destinies. Having consulted with large calf ranches in the U.S., I found that operations with low mortalities overall still have a calf mortality range of 1 to 20 percent, depending on the dairies they get calves from.

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One of the best ways to ensure a successful colostrum-management program is by testing colostrum on-farm and verifying passive transfer of immunity. It can be easy, affordable, and the health and productivity of our calves are worth the effort.

Looking at colostrum or knowing the parity of the cow should never be relied upon as an accurate assessment of colostrum quality.

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