April 28, 2014

(Dan) Thanks for joining us today, I’m Dr. Dan Thompson and my guest is going to be the section leader of veterinary toxicology at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Steve Ensley. We are going to talk about a syndrome that we’ve seen quite of bit of during the winter, it’s weak calf syndrome. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned.

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(Dan) Welcome to Doc Talk, here’s my guest Dr. Steve Ensley. Steve, thanks for spending time with us. Take time out of your schedule. (Steve) I appreciate the time. I always love to talk about anything toxicology wise in veterinary medicine. (Dan) You do a good job of it. (Steve) Alright, well thanks. It is very interesting to me. That’s why we try to get the students interested in toxicology, but it’s always a tough sell.(Dan) Well it is until you are in practice. (Steve) Right. (Dan) And then it is one of the most intriguing you know, I think some of my most fond cases and things that you could really get your hands around, were toxicology cases. And very worthwhile. (Steve) Exactly, that was my experience too. I practiced for 15 years before I went back to school and that was my experience too. I worked on my toxicology degree, but those are the cases I always remembered the most. (Dan) Well, you are going to talk about one today this weak calf syndrome. (Steve) Right, it’s a syndrome that we have recognized for quite some time and there’s a lot of variables involved and we actually did some work at Iowa State about three years ago trying to look to see if we could identify some of the causes of weak calf syndrome. So we asked veterinarians that send cases to us, if they had a case… our case definition was we wanted a calf that was born unable to get up, may or may not have nursed but died within 48 hours of being born. And then we got samples from those calves, tissue to look at under a microscope and also tissue that we could look in toxicology to try to see if there was a common thread or something in all those calves that we could identify as an issue. So we got actually over about two years we got 100 calves that fit that definition and we looked at… we did histopathology on those calves tissues and we also looked at trace minerals- Vitamin A, Vitamin E and one of the things we found consistently is nutritional involvement with this. The health of the dame or the body condition score with this is very critical. But Vitamin E was one of the things we saw consistently very low or almost absent sometimes. Other trace minerals weren’t as consistent. Vitamin A we looked at. Vitamin A’s weren’t as consistent. Passed from the dam to the neonate via a coloscomate and so if an animal nursed we could  accurately determine Vitamin A status. If they didn’t nurse, it made it a little more difficult. But Vitamin A and Vitamin E were two of the things we consistently saw low in those calves. (Dan) And that will go with some of the length of the winter, the forage available, how much we are haying these cows, good hay storage. (Steve) Right. (Dan) All the things that sometimes we take for granted when we walk around out at our place. (Steve) Right, the supplements are something that we looked at to see, the forages get depleted of Vitamin A and Vitamin E very quickly especially by this time of year so they don’t contain any. So without adequate supplementation and intake, you know that is the other key, we may have a good trace mineral, vitamin mix out there, but if they don’t consume it then they are not going to get the intake that we need as well. (Dan) Exactly. Well, we’re going to take a break. When we come back we’re going to get more into the syndrome of what’s going on in these calves and some of the things we can do about it. You’re watching Doc Talk. More with Dr. Steve Ensley here after the break.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk, I’m Dr. Dan Thompson here from Kansas State University and my guest is a Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine alumni, who is now the Section Leader of the Veterinary Toxicology at Iowa State University, Dr. Steve Ensley, who is an Onaga, Kansas native if people know where Onaga is. A lot of people around here do. (Steve) Right. Really? Usually I didn’t think anybody but me knew where that was. (Dan) Well, in northeast Kansas Onaga, you’ve at least got to go through it. (Steve) Right, right. (Dan) It’s hard for me get used to you in red. (Steve) Yeah, well I’ve been at Iowa State for quite a while now and it’s a great veterinary school. K-State is a great school. Iowa State’s got a great school.. Actually we’re where veterinary toxicology started, that’s where one of my interests were to be able to go to Iowa State is they’ve got great laboratory support. Unfortunately, veterinary toxicology takes a lot of expensive instrumentation and because Iowa State was the first real diagnostic lab to do veterinary toxicology they were able to build up a nucleus of people and equipment that makes what I do a lot easier. (Dan) Strong history. (Steve) It is, strong history. (Dan) So, let’s talk about this weak calf syndrome and what are some…I know we said it’s calves that are weak and die within the first 48 hours. But kind of run me through what they’re looking like. (Steve) Well normally, the primary cause of death in neonatal calves is diarrhea and when we have a producer that has high calf mortality and it’s not diarrhea and it’s not respiratory disease then we try and investigate and see what’s the issues are. And many times this weak calf syndrome is multifactorial, dystocia, how fast the calf is born, the colostrum intake being adequate and then definitely the nutrition of the dame is very key in this syndrome and so the calves will be born weak, can’t get up, no responsive treatment at all and if we identify that as weak calf syndrome then there are some different approaches we have to take versus our normal calf scour mortality or calf scour respiratory disease. (Dan) When we see something like this in a herd, do you see it in some clusters or is there one apparent case or is it generally some that we are seeing more numbers of. (Steve) Normally we don’t see too many single cases, it’s usually a problem with the herd, there have been diet issues that maybe weren’t addressed correctly, or not identified and then when we see these, unfortunately it’s usually early on the calving season and you know, trying to make a change at that time can be difficult nutritionally to turn things around. (Dan) Sure, the horse is out of the barn. (Steve) Correct. (Dan) We’re going to move on to a break. But this is something that has plagued the industry for a long time, it’s not something that you just all of a sudden, I can still remember the colder the winter the more of these we see. (Steve) Right. (Dan) And things to that nature. (Steve) It’s a syndrome that’s been around for a long time. A lot of people have looked at it trying to identify one cause or one thing we can do, there probably is not one cause so it’s a syndrome that we deal with. (Dan) Multi… (Steve) Multifactorial in cause. (Dan) When we come back let’s jump into some of the factors and start hammering this thing out. (Steve) Sounds great. (Dan) We might have it solved. (Steve) I wish. (Dan) Thanks for watching us; we’ll be back after the break. (Dan) Welcome back to Doc Talk, I’m Dr. Dan Thompson with Dr. Steve Ensley from Iowa State University and we are talking about the weak calf syndrome and as we left we were talking about the multifactorial and we hit on the nutrition side with the trace minerals and vitamins and making sure that we have those, copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin E in there. What are some of the other factors? (Steve) Those are the… as far as from my lab we like to look at, those are things- we like to get a liver from the calf that’s the best source to try to measure these. And so we’ll look at trace minerals. We’ve got a panel now, we’ve got an expensive piece of equipment we can look at multiple minerals at one time on one analysis, so we’re got about 13 that we actually look at in our panel. And then we look at the Vitamin A and the Vitamin E concentration in the liver so we can see if those are part of the problem with some of the issues with the weak calf syndrome and nutrition is one part. There’s other infectious disease dystocia, a lot of other factors as well, but that is something that we feel like we can identify quickly with our analytical ability now and see if that is involved or not to know whether we need to correct that or not. (Dan) Well, and then some of these calves are nutritionally challenged and go through dystocia, you just kind of get that stair stepping effect of stressors. (Steve) So that is why weak calf syndrome can be extremely frustrating. I know for the owner because we talk about it as a syndrome and being.. there’s a lot of factors involved and what we need to identify what they are as quickly as possible and try to correct the things that we can. For me as a veterinary toxicologist nutrition is one of the things that we look at, either too much or not enough and in this case it’s usually not enough trace minerals or vitamins that are involved in many of the cases that we see. (Dan) So, when we think about this, are there certain years that are worse than others? (Steve) Right. We’ve had in the Midwest, two years at least, of back to back drought so our forages don’t usually contain the Vitamin A and Vitamin E that we would normally see or trace minerals as well, because the forages are stressed, that’s an abnormal situation and the weak calf syndrome has been more of an issue the last two years because of drought, particularly this year the winter of 2013/2014 has been long, drawn out, very cold, a lot of moisture and just more challenges for  the cow/calf producer to try to stay on top of. (Dan) Sure. One of the things that I always remember somebody mentioning as far as the disease aspect, they always mention BVD potential. Is there any correlation? (Steve) We looked at ear notches on all those 100 calves that we had in our study that we looked at and we did not find one calf that we thought was persistently infected or potentially viraemic from BVD. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not involved. I think BVD is very common and part of this syndrome, so we didn’t see it in the calves we looked at but that doesn’t mean it’s part of the whole issue for sure. (Dan) Sure. Well, let’s take a break. When we come back from break we’re going to talk more with Dr. Steve Ensley and wrap up today’s show talking about weak calf syndrome. We appreciate you watching Doc Talk. More after the break.

(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk, I’m Dr. Dan Thompson here with Dr. Steve Ensley who is the Section Leader of Veterinary Toxicology at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and we’re talking about weak calf syndrome and what are some of the things that people need to watch for, as far as you’ve seen risk factors or things associated with weak calves that we might not think about? (Steve) Typically in Iowa or in the Midwest in general there’s in the last ten years, we’ve seen a real increase in ethanol plants and so distiller coproducts or corn coproducts because of that ethanol industry. So in Iowa, we use a lot of these feeds because they are inexpensive or less expensive than corn. And they provide a great feed source for cattle. Then down side is that the sulfur concentration in these feeds can be variable and sometimes very high. And the high sulfur feeds are associated… one of the things that we associate those with commonly is polio in feed lots. But we also see in mature cows, beef cows especially, when they are on a diet that’s got high sulfur and they are on it continually because it’s inexpensive particularly the corn syrups we have, they can be very high in sulfur. The high sulfur in the diet will interfere with uptake of trace minerals. And vitamins as well. Copper is the key one that we see. Initially saw a lot of issues with and continue to see problems with copper deficiency associated with high sulfur feeds. But also some of these other trace minerals, zinc, selenium, that we think are associated as well and Vitamin E. (Dan) Well, make sure you have a good trace mineral program, work with your local co-op, local nutritionist. Even veterinarians can know a little bit about nutrition despite some of our antics back and forth with our nutritional colleagues. But one of the things too, I think that is really interesting is the lab that you all have and the testing that is available. So if people want to send in feed samples to you what kind of testing? (Steve) We’re very fortunate at Iowa State to have a full service laboratory yet, veterinary diagnostics labs in the U.S., unfortunately a lot of labs don’t do their analytical chemistry now in house because of the expense of the equipment. One of the pieces of equipment that we have that we use probably heavily as much as any piece in there, is our we have an ICP mass spec that will do this multiple mineral analysis all at one time. And it’s about a $200  thousand dollar piece of equipment. But is very … if you are going to look at trace minerals and you want to do a quick job and be comprehensive it’s what you have to have in order to do that. Fortunately we have that in our lab and it’s a very high thrupid instrument. We depend on weekly, especially this time of year. (Dan) As you say, you probably get a lot of samples. (Steve) Right. We are becoming more of a regional lab, a lot of the other labs around in the Midwest don’t have a veterinary toxicology analytical section like we do, so you know that is great for us to see these other samples come in that we get to work with. (Dan) Thanks for being on the show today. Great information. (Steve) All right. (Dan) Thank you for watching Doc Talk. Remember always work with your local veterinarian. If you want to find out more about what we do at Doc Talk, you can find us on the web at www.doctalktv.com I’m Dr. Dan Thompson, thanks for watching the show today and I’ll see you down the road.

Closed Captioning brought to you by AgriLabs, the Perfect Pairing of Performance and Value.

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