April 06, 2015

(Dr. Dan) Hi there, folks, and welcome to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. We have a great show today. Dr. Bob Larson’s gonna be joining me. We’re gonna talk about taking care of that neonatal calf when it’s born. Calving season’s right around the corner and it’s gonna be a great show, so I hope you stay tuned.

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(Dr. Dan) Bob, welcome to DocTalk. (Male) It’s good to be here, Dr. Dan. (Dr. Dan) Well it’s always good to have you here. To introduce you folks to Dr. Larson, Dr. Larson is the Jones Chair of Production Medicine here at Kansas State University and he is a full Professor and is in the Clinical Sciences. What are some of the things that you enjoy doing? (Male) Well I get the opportunity to teach veterinary students and I enjoy that a lot. We also do a lot of research work with cattle, looking at ways to improve health and profitability of beef cattle production. (Dr. Dan) Well always good to have you on the show, always good to have topics with you and this is one that you’re pretty familiar with and that’s taking care of these baby calves when they hit the ground. (Male) That’s right. I think cattlemen know that the first two to three weeks of life is really critical for a calf’s health. We know that the greatest risk of death for a calf is during those first two to three weeks of life, so this is a timeframe when we should really concentrate on the calves, the environment they’re in and doing all we can to make sure that they get off to a good, healthy start. (Dr. Dan) Yep. Couldn’t agree more and, you know, as we were talking about this, the first thing we’re gonna talk about is when that calf’s born and all the things surrounding that ordeal and preventing dystocia. (Male) Well, yeah the first couple of hours are critical and they’re critical for a couple of reasons. One is dystocia, the veterinary word for calving difficulties, such a difficult birth that takes the cow a long time to have this calf. We can have a number of problems with that. One is just that he’s exhausted and the cow is exhausted. Also, you know, it can be a long enough process that his tongue is swollen, he has difficult suckling, all those kinds of things. If it takes long enough, or if the calving is difficult enough, it can actually kill it in just the calving process. So dystocia can end up in death itself or other problems. Even if they live, they’re not likely to get up and suckle very soon. Colostrum, getting that early milk into the calf is critical. The way that I am most certain to get that colostrum into the calf is if the calf is born easily, turns around, jumps up, his mom’s already standing and he starts suckling. If that happens, he’s likely to drink all the colostrum that he needs. (Dr. Dan) Right. (Male) If either he or the cow is laying on the ground for a long period of time because of calving difficulty, we’re not gonna get up and start suckling when I want them to. (Dr. Dan) So then we probably need to intervene with some colostrum or something like that. (Male) Yep, help him along. (Dr. Dan) Dystocia fatigue. (Male) That’s right, can’t be good. (Dr. Dan) No, and, so when you’re sitting there looking at the fatigue and the fatigued calf, when you use colostrum, do you use a bag feeder? (Male) I prefer to use frozen or fresh cow colostrum. (Dr. Dan) Right. (Male) That’s not always easy to get, so if I can, I will use colostrum right from the cow. If I can’t get it like that from that calf’s mother or another cow in the herd, I will use a powdered colostrum or something like that if I need to. (Dr. Dan) Perfect. Thanks for being here today and thank you for joining us. When we come back from the break, more with Dr. Larson on taking care of that baby calf. You’re watching DocTalk and we’re sure glad you joined us.

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(Dr. Dan) Hi there and welcome back to DocTalk. I’m joined by Dr. Bob Larson and Dr. Larson is Jones Chair here in Production Medicine at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. We’re talking about taking care of the neonatal or newly born calf. We talked about dystocia and calving difficulties and colostrum. The next thing is keeping them warm. (Male) Yeah. When we calve in the winter time or spring, one of the real concerns is just getting too cold and again, not getting off to a good start. Obviously they’re born wet and, so they need to dry off and get their body temperature up pretty early. One of the things that I worry about is particularly, you know, calves that are born in a real cold spell or a snow storm or something like that. I think it’s wise to carry a thermometer around and they need to get their body temperature up above a hundred degrees real quickly. Any calf that is on the ground and not able to really respond like I want him to, take a body temperature and if it’s below a hundred degrees, we’re gonna intervene. Intervening may be bringing him into the cab of the pick-up truck and warm him up, maybe take him to the house or barn and warm him up, but I’m gonna get that calf warmed up as soon as possible. Often times you think about snow storms, cold weather, that kind of thing causing low body temperatures. The other one that can do is a little bit later in the spring when we get some cool spring rains. If het gets wet and stays wet, again, related to the dystocia, if he doesn’t get up and get a belly full of warm milk, those can start to be a real series of problems that are gonna cause his body temperature to drop. So my rule of thumb is really that they need to get that body temperature up during cold snaps. It’s a good idea for the cowboy and the rancher to have a thermometer and just check those calves and be ready to get them warmed up if they need it. (Dr. Dan) Great ideas and you put them in the cab of the pick-up make sure the cow doesn’t… (Male) Follow you in there. (Dr. Dan) and the other thing is, you know, we want to make sure that we tell people on a public health note, if you take those calves indoors, into your kitchen or into your bathtub that, you can be bringing e-Coli or salmonella into the house and if you have young kids or elderly people living there, be really careful. (Male) Remember that a few of the organisms that cause diarrhea in calves can also cause diarrhea in humans, so yeah, we want to keep those separate from food and water and wash our hands and all of those types of activities. (Dr. Dan) Yeah. Well speaking of sanitation and segregation, kind of segways into our next topic on these calves. When you say sanitation and segregation to prevent neonatal calf illness, what are we talking about here? (Male) Well again, we talked about dystocia, actually difficult birth as a big risk of dying. If they survive that, the next biggest risk that we are concerned about in that first two to three weeks of life is diarrhea, scours or diarrhea and the way we really try to prevent that is try to have that calf in as clean an environment as possible. I know we’re talking about cattle that live outdoors, so we’re not talking about hospital room clean, but as clean as possible and, so anything with a grass cover, turf cover, even, you know, when the grass is dormant, that is what I’m really looking for. Get him out of the mud, get him up where they can really spread out and be as clean as possible. By age segregation, a young calf’s worst enemy is a slightly older calf. For calf that’s in the first one to two weeks. of life, the calf that’s most likely to make him sick is the one that’s three or four or five weeks of age. I like to segregate pastures with just a couple of weeks worth of age group in each pasture so that they don’t have older calves around them. (Dr. Dan) Perfect. When we come back from the break, more with Dr. Bob Larson on taking care of baby calves.

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(Dr. Dan) Hey there and welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine. My guest who is the Coleman Chair. (Male) Yeah, we got that right. (Dr. Dan) Yeah, here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences, Dr. Bob Larson and we were talking about as we left the break, sanitation and segregation which are very, very important to preventing calf scours. Let’s elaborate a little bit more on different methods or different processes that ranchers and farmers employ. (Male) Well one of the strategies that people have probably heard about if they’ve been reading some of the magazines that last few years is what’s called the Sand Hills Method of calving and this was really developed by a group of scientists up at the University of Nebraska. We need to give those guys credit. They came up with a pretty simple plan of trying to really improve the sanitation the calves are born in, as well as keeping them away from older calves and the strategy is basically to have the first two weeks of calving in one pasture and then any cow that has not calved in those first two weeks, she goes into a new pasture. As those calves are born, they basically kind of start the calving season over again in that pasture and they’re not around those older calves and then if you can, the ideal is to move them every week. Move the ones that haven’t calved so in each pasture, you’ve got just one week age spread in each pasture. That’s the ideal and I really like it when you can pull that off. I understand that takes a lot of pastures and that may not be practical. Again, this isn’t exactly what the Nebraska data says, but I would say that if you can move at least every, you know, two weeks so that within a group there’s only two weeks of age spread from the youngest to the oldest, that does a lot to help us prevent diarrhea and scours in these young calves just because they’re not exposed to those older calves. Also by moving occasionally, moving those pastures, we’re constantly moving new, young calves or they’re going to be born onto fairly uncontaminated pasture. There haven’t been other cows on there, so if you can do that, you really optimize both the cleanliness of the area where they’re calving and they’re not around those older calves that can shed more germs and cause problems. (Dr. Dan) You kind of have both the sanitation and the segregation deal going on. (Male) Really fits in the same strategy. (Dr. Dan) And if you have two pastures, then do it in thirty days. I mean, you know, if you have two, you know, at least you’re separating it at a point and maximizing the opportunity and not everybody can get it done, but (Male) That’s exactly right. If you’re down to two pastures, then as soon as half the calves are born, start the next half on a new, clean pasture and, so we always move the heavies, we move the ones that are late in pregnancy away and, so that that group can start calving in a brand new pasture as frequently as we can. (Dr. Dan) Right. (Male) Every week if possible, whatever else we can accomplish so that they start on new, clean pastures. (Dr. Dan) Well and it just makes good sense, you know, typically we used to do it the other way around. (Male) Yes. (Dr. Dan) We would kick the cow, we’d have our calving area and we’d kick the cows with their calves out into the pasture and leave them in the same environment. (Male) Right and, so this is a better strategy compared to that and then the other question is, Well how long do they have to stay apart? Well, by the time those calves are about six weeks of age, they’re a lot tougher than they were during those first three weeks, so once they get to be about six weeks of age or so, I can put the whole group back together and you start putting cows back together again as they go to summer grazing. (Dr. Dan) Excellent. When we come back, more with Dr. Bob Larson on taking care of baby calves.

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(Dr. Dan) Welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with my friend and colleague, Dr. Bob Larson who’s the Coleman Chair of Production Medicine here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and we’ve had a great discussion today about taking care of those baby calves when they hit the ground and now we’re gonna kind of wrap-up today’s show by talking about healthy cows. (Male) Yeah. I think one of the ways to think about it and it’s not a surprise to anybody, but good, healthy calves have healthy mothers and, so by healthy mothers, what I mean is the herd as whole has a good vaccination program, they have a feeding plan and a forage utilization plan where those cows stay in good body condition. They’re not too thin, they’re not too fat, they’re de-wormed when they should be to make sure that they’re not carrying a heavy parasite load. With that, I expect the best luck and luck is usually what you make of it. The best luck as, far as calf health is concerned, is when the cows are a good, healthy, herd, all of the things that we talk about, nutrition, vaccination, sanitation on those cows are top notch and then we’re much more likely to have a good success with those calves as they’re born. (Dr. Dan) Working with your veterinarian is just critical and your nutritionist to making sure you have optimum health, optimum nutrition. (Male) And part of the key of that is that you’re thinking about these things weeks and months ahead of the big stress times. As I said, the timeframe when calves are at most risk of dying is those first one to three weeks of age, so we don’t want to start thinking about that when we’re one week away from calving. We want to think about that when we’re weeks and months ahead so we can really put things in place. We can get our calving pastures set-up, we can do any scraping of dry lots that we need to to prepare them, we can have our cows in good body condition heading into calving and the vaccinations are done. So prior planning prevents problems as we move into calving. (Dr. Dan) Yeah, and it’s so critical and, you know, it takes you five minutes walking on somebody’s farm to tell who’s planned and who hasn’t. (Male) Yes. That’s almost always true. (Dr. Dan) And, you know, we’d like to be able to check boxes and do audits and assessments, but whether you walk into a school, a business, a farm, whatever, you know when one’s being run right. (Male) Yeah, that’s exactly right. So there’s a lot of opportunities to get better. If you’re really good at what you’re doing, there are opportunities to get a little better. If you’re struggling with some of the things we talked about, calf health, death loss in calves being higher than we want, cows that aren’t in the body condition we want, there’s things we can do. you can get help and that help, you know, I like to use that local veterinarian. He and she is very knowledgeable about the things you want to do. Extension, nutritionists, there’s a lot of people that you can go to and get the information you need to really improve the operation no matter where you are right now. (Dr. Dan) Well great information today. Thank you very much for joining me. (Male) It’s always good to be here. (Dr. Dan) You know it’s always great to have you. If you want to know more about what Dr. Larson and I do here at the College of Veterinary Medicine, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember, always work with a local veterinarian. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. You’ve been watching DocTalk. We’re sure glad you joined us and I’ll see you down the road.

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