Salt to prevent DA’s
After cows calve, there is a lot of space left in the abdomen and the rumen is small because of all the space that the calf took. This, along with the fact that cows may be tired after calving and may not feel like eating for some time after calving, increases the chance for a displaced abomasums, explains Aurora Villarroel, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVPM, Oregon State University.
To prevent this, it has been long suggested to drench cows with several gallons of water with a variety of supplements. “In most farms, when there is no underlying deficiency, it seems that the cows benefit mostly from the sheer amount of fluid that fills the abdomen, as opposed to the different supplements,” Villarroel says.
Instead of drenching every cow with a stomach tube or even a pump, it is much easier if the cows drink all that water on their own. To encourage this, Villarroel uses a trick she learned from her grandfather in Spain. “Sprinkle the newborn calf with salt and let the cow lick it dry,” she suggests. “She will get really thirsty after that! Make sure there is plenty of fresh and clean water in the calving pen for her.”
Calf cradle: an investment that works
The cow-calf clients of Overton Veterinary Services in Lexington, Neb. come in all shapes and sizes, with varying amounts of manpower available to work calves. “Our clients are very receptive to our recommendations which include a fairly aggressive vaccination program for calves at branding,” says Jared Walahoski, DVM, of the practice. “It takes a good crew to perform what can be a somewhat labor intensive process, and good facilities make the process much less stressful for both the calves and the crew.”
The practice invested in a hydraulic, portable chute called a Calf Cradle built specifically for working calves. Prior to the purchase, Walahoski says working baby calves was a relatively stressful ordeal for their staff of BQA-certified veterinarians.
“Our old manual calf cradle provided minimal restraint, resulting longer chute times for the calves,” he says. “It also required a great deal of manual strength to roll the calves, and had a number of areas where staff routinely were getting hands pinched or kicked while processing.” While the old cradle was portable, moving it was a chore and it moved around on the ground, requiring constant repositioning.
With the large number of baby calves the practice processes each year (nearly 6,000 head in 2012), they looked at several custom made units with similar concepts, and eventually decided on our current system. “Not only does it increase our productivity by 40-60%, we see far less stress to the individual animals and on our staff. It might not be a perfect fit for everyone, but it has been a good investment for us.”