We had a lovely cosy meeting for our clients last week, where our guest speaker outlined how to build the "resilient" calf.
The audience, most of whom are still in their dry period, were in good form and chatted together after the meeting.
You could feel the anticipation amongst them for the coming season, and I am sure they went home full of enthusiasm.
We are only days away from the opening salvo, and farmers should have one final check that they have everything in order.
The calving jack should be checked again, to make sure that it is clean and working fluidly.
Calving ropes should be immaculate.
Sometimes, when we are called to a calving, and ask the farmer to bring on his calving jack and ropes, we find the ropes have gone hard.
These are harsh when used on the legs of a calf that you are trying to bring into the world.
Calving ropes should be soft and supple, yet strong.
Some calving ropes, even though they are new, are very hard. Try to buy soft ropes.
Clean them under the tap after every use, making sure there is no contamination or afterbirth left clinging to them.
There is no harm in keeping your calving ropes in a fresh disinfectant solution in between calvings, so that they are hygienically clean for every calving.
The colostrum bag is another item that should be checked.
Quite often, I see these with the tube looking black from the mould that has grown inside during the “off-season”.
We must always remember that these calves are the same as babies.
We have to make sure that whatever we feed them is as sterile as possible.
When mothers are making up bottles for their child, they sterilise the bottle after every use.
The feeding bag also needs to be cleaned and sterilised between each use.
It should be washed with warm water, using a minute amount of washing up liquid, and rinsed with cold water.
It should then be left in a freshly made sterilising solution, something akin to Milton, which is a 1% solution of sodium hypochlorite that is mixed with water in a 1:80 solution. Chloras is a 10% solution, so 1ml of this in 800ml of water will do the job.
The bag and tube can be left in this solution until it is needed again.
Getting back to our talk on building the resilient calf, we were told, and it cannot be stressed enough, that each calf needs to get 10% of its bodyweight in colostrum within the first six hours of life.
This means that a 40kg calf needs to get four litres of colostrum. Some people still think that if they get the calf sucking, they will be fine.
This is just the lazy way out.
Research has now proven that there is absolutely no difference between the calf getting the “beastings” through a nipple or by stomach tube.
Get the colostrum into all your calves by stomach tube.
Pay particular attention to the harvesting process, because if you have contaminated colostrum, then your calf will end up with food poisoning.
No two ways about it. Dirty udders and teats will mean contaminated feed.
No matter what time of the day or night the calving happens the same hygienic procedure should take place.
This will reward you with not having sick calves that will eat up your time and money later.
A refractometer is a very handy instrument to have on your farm. This instrument gives an accurate assessment of the quality of the colostrum that you are feeding to your calf. Not all cows or heifers produce the same quality colostrum. If you find that the quality is not at the required level, you can replace it with a good quality one from your freezer.
Paul Redmond, MVB, MRCVS, Cert DHH, Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy