Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Calf care

Today Kris went to a program put on by the MSU extension office called Calf Care School. It was an all-day class that covered everything to do with calves, from feeding to housing to scours.

Speaking of scours, a girl I met this weekend said that as soon as she walks in a barn, she can smell scours. Scours is calf diarrhea caused by viruses or bacteria. If not treated quickly, it causes potentially life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. I said, “You can smell scours?” She said, “Once you know the smell, you know it. There’s no mistaking it for anything else.”

The extension agents (we have good ones!) and a vet covered the best ways to raise calves - supported by studies. Kris said it got him thinking about things he might want to do differently in the new calf barn. Instead of milk replacer, we’re going to feed them fresh milk, and we have to handle this differently. They also presented a study that showed you can feed high-quality haylage (chopped up and fermented alfalfa) to calves after weaning. People usually feed them dry hay because it was thought that fermented feed might not be good for a calf because it doesn’t have a fully developed rumen.

Like caring for babies, a lot of it was just reminders on how to raise healthy baby calves. We’re heading into calving season, so we’re gearing up! Hopefully we won’t have to identify scours by smell . . . there’s no class for that kind of skill.

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