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Incentives for Dairy Calf Raising


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                                   Incentives for Dairy Calf Raising

                                                                                          Brian Manning
                                    Jim Reynolds
                         Chief or Service, Dairy Production Medicine
                          UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
                                       (559) 786-4584

    Calf raising on dairies is very           health, condition and sanitation of the
important to the profitability of a dairy.    late-gestation pregnant cows and heifers
Managed properly, the calf program can        and ends when the heifer enters the
supply a surplus of healthy replacement       milking herd. This discussion will focus
cattle to the dairy. If managed poorly,       on the system from birth to weaning,
the calf program can consume money            because this is the most labor intense
and resources, strain relationships and       period of calf raising and takes the most
cause the dairy to purchase                   skill and management.
replacements. Dairy calf raising                  Dairies can raise their replacement
programs have many variations and can         heifers on site, have them custom raised
include several different management          at calf ranches for any part of the
areas and systems on the farm.                growing cycle, or sell them after birth.
Successful calf raising begins with the
44 • D A I R Y I N C E N T I V E P AY ( 4   TH
                                                                                INCENTIVES   FOR   D A I R Y C A L F R A I S I N G • 45

                                                                                                                                          J.W. Schroeder, NDSU
CALF RAISING SYSTEMS ON                         result in more live calves, better cow
                                                                                                    Healthy calves start from
                                                reproductive health and better calf
DAIRIES OR CALF RANCHES                         health.                                             birth: a clean and dry calf
                                            · Poorly designed facilities require extra              from birth is essential. The
    Calf raising systems can be outlined
                                                labor or result in ignoring cows that
as the following parts:                                                                             goal for the maternity area is
                                                need assistance. This will increase
1) Calves must be born in a clean and                                                               to provide clean bedding and
                                                the still-born rate and the number of
    dry area.
                                                calves born distressed.                             appropriate are for both the
· Sanitation determines the pathogen
                                            · Attending dystocias is a skilled task
    load, or exposure to bacteria and                                                               dam and the calf.
                                                that truly requires training so that
    other disease agents. Calves born
                                                trauma to the cow is minimized and
    into dirty conditions will be exposed
                                                the chance for a live calf is
    to pathogens.
                                                maximized. The herd veterinarian
· Calves born into wet conditions will
                                                should be used to help train the
    lose body temperature and will need
                                                workers involved with delivering
    to expend energy to stay warm.
    Holstein calves are born with about
                                            · Appropriate and sufficient quantities of
    48 hours of energy reserves.
                                                equipment, lubricants and
2) Dystocias must be attended by
                                                disinfectants must be available to the
    trained people in appropriate
                                                workers at the maternity area.
                                            3) Calves must be fed adequate amounts
· Well-designed maternity areas allow
                                                of clean colostrum within a few
    workers to attend a cow in labor
                                                hours of birth.
    when she needs help. This will
      46 • D A I R Y I N C E N T I V E P AY ( 4   TH

                                                                                                                           · Fly control is very important because
                                                                                                                               flies transfer pathogens around a calf
                                                                                                                               facility. Keeping the area in and
                                                                                                                               around calf housing clean, dry and
                                                                                                                               free of manure and water is very
                                                                                                                           · Calves must be able to turn around
                                                                                                                               when kept in individual hutches.
                                                                                                                           · Calves must be provided dry bedding,
                                                                                                                               shade from direct sunlight and
                                                                                                                               shelter from rain or snow.
                                                                                                                           5) Calves must be fed adequate amounts
                                                                                                                               of energy and protein for growth and
                                                                                                                           · Whole milk provides more calories
                                                                                                                               than most milk replacers.
                                                                                                                           · Calves in positive growth are healthier
                                                                                                                               and require less medical treatment
                                                                                                                               than calves that lose body condition
                                                                                                                               (fat stores) during early growth.

                                                                                                    J.W. Schroeder, NDSU
                                                                                                                           · Body condition scores of calves from 7
                                                                                                                               to 28 days of age should not get
                                                                                                                               below 3 (1 to 5 scale). Thin calves
                                                                                                                               are the result of inadequate energy.
                                                                                                                           6) Rumen development must be
                                                          · Calves have an absolute requirement                                managed properly.
Newborn calves have an                                                                                                     · Calves are born with small,
                                                              for colostrum. Cattle are a species
absolute requirement for                                      that does not transfer antibodies                                undeveloped rumens.
                                                              from the dam to the fetus during                             · Rumen development occurs as a
colostrum. Colostrum
                                                              pregnancy. Therefore, the newborn                                response to volatile fatty acids
provides more energy and                                                                                                       (VFAs) released during digestion of
                                                              calf is dependent on colostrum for
protein than regular milk or                                  passive immunity as well as                                      carbohydrates.
                                                              initiation of maturation of the                              · Grain intake determines VFA
milk replacer and is the only
                                                              immune system.                                                   production. Therefore, it is
source of antibodies in the                                                                                                    imperative that calves are presented
                                                          · Colostrum has twice the solids and
newborn calf.                                                 considerably more energy and                                     fresh, palatable grain daily so they
                                                              protein than regular milk or milk                                will eat grain and make VFAs.
                                                              replacer.                                                    · A calf can develop a rumen, become a
                                                          · Calves need colostrum for energy,                                  functional ruminant and get energy
                                                              protein, antibodies and to initiate the                          from grain by about 3 weeks of life
                                                              digestive enzymes and parts of the                               if managed properly.
                                                              immune system.                                               · Clean water must be provided to calves
                                                          4) Calves must be housed in clean and                                daily. Calves need water to stay
                                                              dry facilities.                                                  hydrated and grain intake is
                                                          · Sanitation is one of the key                                       dependent on water intake.
                                                              determinants of the pathogen load in                         7) Calves must be observed daily by
                                                              the calf's environment. Filth and                                trained personnel for attitude, body
                                                              manure expose calves to pathogens,                               condition score, hygiene and health.
                                                              clean housing protects calves.                               · Workers must be trained to understand
                                                          · Manure, mud and water decrease the                                 how to observe calves for the above
                                                              insulating ability of hair and reduce                            parameters.
                                                              the calf's ability to regulate body                          · Workers must be trained to implement
                                                              temperature. A wet calf will use up                              treatment protocols when they
                                                              to 20% of it's' energy to stay warm                              recognize sick calves.
                                                              in cold weather.                                             · Calf health is determined by positive
                                                                                                                               growth, which can be measured by
                                                                              INCENTIVES   FOR   D A I R Y C A L F R A I S I N G • 47

    body condition score observations.      · Target body weights should be
· Workers must have the ability or              established for each facility that
    authority to correct problems in            allow healthy transition from
    housing maintenance, feeding,               individual pens to group pens.
    handling or treatment or be able to     · Calves can generally be smaller when
    direct their observations to                moved into small groups of 5 to 10
    supervisors who will implement              calves. Calves should be larger
    necessary actions.                          when moved into groups of over 30
· Calves that require euthanasia must be        calves.
    identified and humanely euthanized.     · Most dairies target 175 pounds for
8) Calves should be moved from                  calves before moving from                         The goal in the hutch system
    individual housing to group pens as         individual pens to group pens.
                                                                                                  is to have calves that are
    soon as possible.
· Individual housing and liquid feeding                                                           alert and curious. All calves
                                            INCENTIVE PAY PROGRAMS IN
    is more expensive than group                                                                  must have fresh and clean
    housing and solid feeding.              CALF RAISING PROGRAMS
                                                                                                  water and grain available
· Calves can only be removed from
    liquid feed after they have developed       Causal incentive pay programs,                    everyday so that they
    rumens and are eating and digesting     where the employee never knows when                   develop rumens quickly and
    over 1 pound of grain daily for at      a reward will be given, are used on
                                            some farms. Examples of these                         maintain normal hydration.
    least 3 days in a row.

                                                                                                                                        American Jersey Cattle Association, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
      48 • D A I R Y I N C E N T I V E P AY ( 4   TH

                                                          programs are when employees are given                                                            by management. Management will have
                                                          gifts, such as restaurant vouchers or                                                            to establish targets, collect the data or
                                                          cash gifts, when the owner or manager                                                            information related to each target,
                                                          feels that work has been productive or                                                           analyze the information and report to
                                                          the farm income has been good. These                                                             each employee whether or not the target
                                                          unstructured attempts to direct employee                                                         was met. If the employee did not meet
                                                          behavior by spontaneous rewards                                                                  the target(s) it is necessary to tell the
                                                          usually fail in the long term because the                                                        employee why they will not get the
                                                          underlying reasons for the rewards, such                                                         incentive pay and work with them to
                                                          as hard work or increased income, have                                                           correct the situation. Many times targets
An easy way to monitor the                                not been clearly defined and are                                                                 are not met for reasons that are out of
                                                          achieved only by happenstance and not                                                            the employee's control but require
nutrition program in young
                                                          management.                                                                                      management or the supervisor's
calves is to observe body                                     Successful calf raising requires                                                             involvement. For example, a worker
condition as they grow.                                   clearly defined goals, objectives and                                                            may do a very good job of feeding
                                                          tactics. Workers should be trained to                                                            colostrum to the calves but the milking
Body condition can be
                                                          their jobs and tasks and understand what                                                         crew may be providing the wrong milk
scored from 1 (emaciated or                               the outcome goals are for their specific                                                         to the calf worker, or they may not be
very thin) to 5 (fat) based on                            areas of work. Only then will structured                                                         cooling the evening colostrum, thus
                                                          incentive pay programs work. Incentive                                                           allowing bacteria to incubate. If
the amount of covering over
                                                          pay can be arranged for any work done                                                            management does not correct the parts
the pelvis and ribs. Calves                               by employees that produces more                                                                  of the system that are outside the
should not be less than 3                                 outcome or better results than they are                                                          worker's control the worker may become
                                                          expected to provide for their base salary.                                                       disgruntled and the incentive program
body condition score as they
                                                              Incentive pay can be set for any of                                                          may become a disincentive program.
grow. The calf pictured is                                the areas described in the calf raising                                                              Actual dollar amounts to be given
about a 3 and represents a                                system outline above. Any effective and                                                          for each targeted incentive program are
                                                          lasting incentive pay program will                                                               difficult to determine and will depend
healthy calf.
                                                          require considerable interest and effort                                                         on the particular farm. Losses from calf
                                                                                                                                                           deaths, less than desired weight gains
                                                                                                                                                           and more than desired medicine costs
                                                                                                                                                           can be calculated and the expected
                                                                                                                                                           savings shared with employees when the
                                                                                                                                                           targets are met.
                                                                                                                                                               Potential areas for incentive pay in
                                                                                                                                                           the calf raising system could then be the
                                                                                                                                                               Rates are usually defined as number
                                                                                                                                                           of cases/ number of eligible animals per
                                                                                                                                                           month. The analysis can be done
                                                                                                                                                           weekly of quarterly, depending on the
                                                                                                                                                           size and needs of the farm. [Editor's
                                                                                                                                                           note: Even if the employees are not
                                                                                                                                                           paid right away, the more frequent the
                                                                                                                                                           feedback, the better. This is especially
                                                                                                                                                           true when getting started on an incentive
                                                                                                  American Jersey Cattle Association, Reynoldsburg, Ohio

                                                                                                                                                           pay program]

                                                                                                                                                           DOA rate (dead on arrival)
                                                                                                                                                               This is usually defined as calves that
                                                                                                                                                           are born dead or die within the first 24
                                                                                                                                                           hours after birth. The rate varies
                                                                                                                                                           considerably by dairy due to the
                                                                                                                                                           facilities, worker training, staffing
                                                                                                                                                           levels, pre-partum cow nutrition, pariety
                                                                                 INCENTIVES   FOR   D A I R Y C A L F R A I S I N G • 49

of the dam, housing and the owner's           resist disease. If they are losing body
attitude and desires.                         condition or weight they will get sick.
     Calculation: number of calves            Calves are expected to grow at least 1.7
DOA/number of calves born per time            to 2.2 pounds per day from birth
period.                                       through the end of the liquid feeding
     Suggested targets: < 5% = excellent;     period (usually 60 to 80 days of age).
< 10% = achievable.                           Body condition is an excellent tool to
     Possible corrective actions when         monitor the feeding program.
target not met: increase staffing to              Monitor: body condition scores in
accommodate increases calving load,           calves in the individual hutches. Once
retrain employees, investigate pre-           per week determine the proportion of
partum cow and heifer conditioning.           calves too thin (< 3 BCS ) or normal (3
                                              or > BCS).
Colostrum feeding                                 Suggested target: > 80 % of calves
                                              less than 30 days old should be 3 or
    Because calves require colostrum it
                                              greater BCS ( 1-5 scale).
is imperative that they receive it
                                                  Possible corrective actions when
promptly. Colostrum feeding is
                                              target not met: Review the amount of
commonly monitored by testing the
                                              energy available in the milk replacer and
blood of the calf for evidence of
                                              that the milk replacer is mixed properly
absorbed maternal antibodies. This can
                                              and the correct amount fed. Calves may
be done either by radial
                                              require increases in calories depending
immunodiffusion, salt precipitation
                                              on ambient temperature and pathogen
(sodium sulfite turbidity test) or by total
                                              load. The milk replacer may need
serum protein determination (TP). Total
                                              adjustment to control the body condition
proteins are determined with a hand-
                                              scores within desired limits.
held refractometer and are easiest and
most practical for on-farm use. Calves
                                              Rumen development
are born with about 4.5 mg/dl of TP.
Levels over 5.0 mg/dl between 2 and 8             Calf rumen development is
days of age indicate that the calf            dependent on volatile fatty acid
received and absorbed maternal                production in the rumen from bacterial
antibody proteins. Levels can be as           breakdown of carbohydrates. This is
high as 6.5 to an occasional 7.0 mg/dl.       completely manageable and should
Dehydration and age interfere with            happen as early as possible so that the
interpreting TP values.                       calf will receive energy from grain, a
    Monitor: routinely (weekly or             cheaper feed than milk or milk replacer.
monthly) test a sample of calves for          Calves can be developed into functional
total serum protein. Usually 10 calves        ruminants by 25 days of age.
are bled for this test.                           Monitor: calculate the proportion of
    Suggested targets: >80 % of calves        calves chewing their cuds in the 25 to
should be above 5.0 mg/dl TP. > 50 of         35 day-old group.
calves should be > 5.5 mg/dl TP.                  Suggested target: at least 20 % of
    Possible corrective actions when          the calves in this group should be
target not met: verify quality of             chewing cuds when observed resting.
colostrum with colostrometer, verify              Possible corrective actions when
good quality colostrum is arriving at         target not met: review bucket
maternity area on time,                       management. Make sure clean water is
                                              available from day 1 of age and grain is
                                              clean, fresh and palatable.
Nutrition and growth rates in young
calves                                        Health of calves
    Positive growth of calves is the              Measuring the mortality (MR) or
single most important thing associated        morbidity rate are outcomes that are too
with health in calves. If calves are          late in the management system to be
growing and gaining weight they can           very useful for economics or welfare.
50 • D A I R Y I N C E N T I V E P AY ( 4   TH

                                                    The mortality rate is commonly             for calves less than 30 days of age and
                                                    calculated and is useful as a clear        MR for calves in the group pens.
                                                    measurement of success or failure of the       Suggested targets: overall MR for
                                                    calf raising system. The morbidity rate    the replacement system: < 2 % per year
                                                    (number of sick calves in a time period)   = excellent, < 5 % per year =
                                                    is difficult to determine accurately       achievable, < 10 % per year = average
                                                    because the recognition and diagnosis of   dairy or calf ranch.
                                                    calf diseases can be subjective by             Possible corrective actions when
                                                    employees and most calf ranches or         target not met: Review all areas of the
                                                    dairies do not adequately record           calf raising system, but focus on
                                                    morbidity information.                     sanitation and nutrition.
                                                        Calculate: divide the number of
                                                    calves that died in a time period by the   CHAPTER 4 REFERENCES
                                                    number on the ranch during that time
                                                    period. An easy way to estimate the        1. This chapter builds on Carol Collar’s
                                                    denominator is to average the begging          chapter in the 3rd edition of Dairy
                                                    inventory and the ending inventory (add        Incentive Pay.
                                                    the number of calves in the system at
                                                    the beginning of a month and the
                                                    number at the end of the month and
                                                    divide by 2). It is most useful to
                                                    determine mortality rates for specific
                                                    age, or management, groups such as MR

                                                                                                Sibylle Möcklinghoff-Wicke

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