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Jersey Calf Management Goal


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     Reaching Our Jersey Calf Management Goals
This article is part one of a series that Scott
Bascom, Ph.D., will be writing for the
Jersey Journal. Bascom is a former
Southeast Area Representative for the
American Jersey Cattle Association and is
now a Dairy Specialist for Cooperative
Plus in Wisconsin.

J  ersey calves are more valuable now than
   ever. In 2005, Jersey yearlings averaged
nearly $2,000 per head. If we assume the
average cost of rearing a Jersey calf from
birth to 12 months of age is $2/day (a rather
high estimate) then a newborn Jersey heifer
calf has a value of over $1,200! Therefore,
reviewing calf management goals is a
timely subject.
   In this series of articles we will review        With the demand for Jerseys in the industry today, every newborn calf is a commodity worth
five fundamental goals for Jersey calf            saving. In this series of articles, raising healthy calves, rumen development, efficient growth
management including:                             and calf mortality will all be examined. Helpful tips will be given to lay the foundation for high
     • Low Mortality                              production in your cows.
     • Healthy Calves
     • Rumen Development                          critical to the calf to acquire immunity.          they are fed two (2) quarts of high quality
     • Efficient Growth                           The table below outlines the three “Q’s”           at birth and an additional two (2) quarts of
     • Laying the foundation for high             of colostrum management. These are the             high quality colostrum 12 hours later.
       production.                                familiar rules of colostrum management.            Jersey calves fed this way had a higher
  This article will focus on reducing calf        However, over 25% of the calves in the             serum IgG concentration than calves fed
mortality and improving calf health.              National Dairy Heifer Evaluation Project           four (4) quarts at birth. Jersey cows
                                                  (NDHEP) had failure of passive transfer            produce colostrum with a higher IgG
            Reducing Mortality                    of immunity, indicating that at high               concentration (65.8 mg/ml) than colostrum
   A realistic goal for mortality in the first    percentage of calves do not receive an             from Holsteins (48.2 mg/ml), and it is not
12 weeks of life for calves born healthy is       adequate quantity of quality colostrum.            uncommon to see IgG concentrations over
5% or less. Recent National Animal Health         The NDHEP also reported that the death             80 mg/ml in Jersey colostrum. This
Monitoring Service (NAHMS) surveys                rate in calves that had failure of passive         difference in IgG concentration
report the average for calf mortality in the      transfer was four times higher than in             underscores the importance of feeding
United States is between 8% and 11%, but          calves that successfully acquired                  colostrum with a high IgG concentration
over 96% of the calves in these data sets         immunity.                                          to Jersey calves.
were Holsteins.                                      The calves in the NDHEP were
   A survey conducted with Jersey calves          predominantly Holstein. A typical                            Dipping Navels
by researchers at Virginia Tech showed calf       recommendation for Holstein calves is to          The opening of the umbilical cord is an
mortality averaged                                                                                                     ideal point of entry for
6.7% indicating                                The three Q’s of Colostrum Management                                   bacteria into the body
Jersey breeders do a                                                                                                   cavity of the young
better job raising          “Q”                 Traditional Rule            Specific Guideline for Jerseys             calf. Left alone this
calves. Even in                                                                                                        opening remains for
herds with low calf         Quantity            4 quarts                    2 quarts at first and second feeding       several days but
mortality, further          Quality             >50 mg Ig/ml                >65 mg Ig/ml                               saturating the navel
reductions in calf                                                                                                     with a 7% iodine
mortality can result        Quickly             Within 4 hours              Within 4 hours and 12 hours later          solution will cause the
in an increased                                                                                                        navel to dry up and
number of heifers                                                                                                      reduce the risk of
available for herd expansion or to sell.          deliver 4 quarts of colostrum at birth.         disease and mortality. The University of
                                                  Recent research has demonstrated that this      Wisconsin compared calves that had their
                 Colostrum                        practice is not the optimum procedure for       navels disinfected and those that did not.
   The newborn calf is born with very             Jersey calves. Jaster reported (March 2005      Mortality in the calves with disinfected
limited immunity. Delivering high quality         Jersey Journal) Jersey calves have higher       navels was 7.1% but was 18% in the calves
colostrum to the calf soon after birth is a       levels of blood IgG concentration when                                     (continued to page xx)
Jersey Calf Management                              Researchers at Virginia Tech examined        manage scours, and preventing respiratory
(continued from page xx)                         the relationship between calf health and        disease are key components to a successful
                                                 the performance of over 2,500 Holstein          calf management program that results in
that did not have disinfected navels. Only       calves in a commercial herd. They               healthier calves and low calf mortality.
5% of the calves whose navels were               discovered heifers that had two or more           Jersey calves are unique from other
disinfected were treated for pneumonia, but      incidences of respiratory disease as calves     breeds due to their frame size.
18.9% of the other calves were treated.          entered the milking herd one month later        Implementing management practices
                                                 than heifers that had no incidence of           specifically designed for Jersey calves can
           Calving Environment                   calfhood respiratory disease.                   improve our success in raising Jersey
   The newborn calf has limited defenses            In addition, calves that had no              calves.
against pathogens. Therefore, it is              incidences of respiratory disease or scours
important to minimize the number of              had a greater probability to remain in the
pathogens in the calving environment.            milking herd for 730 days of productive
Keeping the calving environment clean and        life. While this data only examined
dry can reduce the risk of exposure to           Holstein calves it is reasonable to expect
pathogenic organisms.                            that similar relationships between calf
   In addition, it is important to protect the   health and performance exists in Jersey
newbor n calf from extremes in                   calves.
temperature. Newborn calves are not
accustomed to regulating their body                                 Scours
temperature and they can rapidly loose              A common disease problem in calves is
body heat. Calves born in environments           scours. A variety of pathogens can result
with moderate temperatures are subject to        in scours and diarrhea in calves. Calves
less stress and will not use as much energy      with diarrhea can loose one gallon of fluid
to maintain their body temperature. This         per day while healthy calves may gain one
is particularly the case with Jersey calves      quart of fluid per day. This difference in
due to their smaller frame size. Jersey          fluid balance is a challenge that must be
calves loose body heat more quickly than         overcome to keep the scouring calf
calves with a larger frame. Therefore, it is     hydrated. Proper electrolyte management
critical that newborn Jersey calves are          is critical in reducing the risk of scouring.
moved so they are housed in a warm, draft           The keys to electrolyte management
free environment.                                include offering electrolytes as soon as the
                                                 calf shows any signs of scouring or being
             Healthier Calves                    off feed. Offer electrolytes frequently to
   All of the management practices               restore the calf ’s electrolyte balance.
discussed previously improve the health of       Developing a protocol to prevent
calves and reduce the risk of mortality.         dehydration in calves on your farm can pay
Not only do healthy calves have a lower          huge dividends.
risk of death but they also may be healthier        While conducing research at Virginia
and more productive as mature cows.              Tech, researchers saw a signif icant
                                                 reduction in the mortality of Jersey calves
                                                 on research when a Jersey-specif ic
                                                 protocol was developed and implemented.
                                                 (Editors note: More information is
                                                 available on this protocol from the author.)

                                                            Respiratory Disease
                                                    Respiratory disease is the second most
                                                 common disease in calves. Reducing the
                                                 incidence of pneumonia in calves can be
                                                 more challenging than reducing the
                                                 incidence of scours. Providing well
                                                 ventilated and draft free housing for calves
                                                 is important in preventing respiratory
                                                 disease. There are a variety of vaccinations
                                                 that are specific for organisms that cause
                                                 pneumonia. Working with a veterinarian
                                                 to develop a routine vaccination program
                                                 can reduce the incidence of respiratory
   Raising healthy calves early on will result   disease in calves.
more often than not in more productive cows.
Calves that exhibited no respiratory problems
or scours had a greater probability to remain                    Summary
in the milking herd longer. Clean, well-           Proper colostrum management,
ventilated pens are important to managing        providing a suitable calving environment,
healthy calves.                                  dipping navels, implementing protocols to

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