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Veterinarian View | April 2022


contributed article by Dr. Vince Collison, Collison Embryo | Collison Veterinary Services, Rockwell City, Iowa

Practical Management Strategies for Herd Health

This spring I’ve run onto several cases that can be summarized as bullet points.

Make sure cows are good on their vitamin A status going into calving.

We recently had a client buy some bred heifers from out West in a region that has had drought. The heifers came in very thin and when they started to calve, 100 percent of them had issues with the calves getting up to nurse. The owner was having to put every heifer in the chute to help the calves nurse. This is a typical history for vitamin A deficiency. Forage produced in a drought is usually deficient in vitamin A. If in doubt, the vitamin A status on cows and bred heifers can be easily checked with a serum sample. It is easily corrected with an injection of vitamin A or supplementing with vitamin A added to the feed.

Make sure that bred heifers are getting two doses of a scour prevention vaccine ahead of calving.

Many farms get away without vaccinating their cows for scour prevention, but we think it is a good idea to at least vaccinate the bred heifers with two doses before calving. Especially, if you are purchasing heifers that are new to your farm or you are calving a large group of replacement heifers. We had a case this spring where a large group of bred heifers didn’t get any vaccine before calving started and the remaining heifers only had one dose of vaccine while they were calving. Once scours started in this group of heifers’ calves, it was hard to stop it from spreading and required a lot of treatments to get the calves through it and healed up. One strategy we use on bred heifers to get the first dose of scour vaccine in them is to give it when we do the ultrasound pregnancy checks. We have done this anytime through August to October with good results. That way it is done and the second dose can be given in December to early January for heifers that calve in February.

If you need to give calves oral fluids for scours, be aggressive with the frequency.

Don’t be afraid to tube them 3 to 4 times a day if needed. This can often prevent calves from getting to the point of needing IV fluids. Most calves with severe diarrhea are losing a large amount of sodium and potassium from their system. This needs to be given often to prevent them from getting into a severe deficit. Also, if calves are depressed make sure they are getting an electrolyte product that corrects for acidosis. Many electrolyte products do not have any bicarb in them to correct for this. Any scouring calf that is depressed and perhaps breathing rapidly, probably suffers from some degree of acidosis.

If you’re feeding bred cows and heifers a TMR, feed late afternoon to increase the percentage of cows that calve during the day.

You will need to start feeding this way for about three weeks prior to calving to see an effect.

Consider IVF for any cows you want to get earlier calving embryos on.

If you calve a donor cow in March, but want to get some embryos from her to calve earlier the next year, IVF can do this. Donors can be collected starting 30 days post calving and recipients can be set up for fresh transfer. For example, if a cow calved March 11, then she could be aspirated on April 11. Any resulting embryos could be transferred on April 19, resulting in a January 19 calving date for the embryo calf. This process could be repeated again in two weeks and still have time to breed the donor back to calve by the same time next year. Even if you don’t want to transfer fresh, the embryos can be frozen to be transferred at the same time you would be breeding the donor back. If you like to keep your donor on schedule to calve for the same time next year, this is a good strategy.

Dr. Vince Collison is co-owner of Collison Embryo | Collison Veterinary Services PAC

in Rockwell City, Iowa.

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