The herd veterinarian has an important contribution to make during times of “calf surges”, says Sam Leadley, PhD, Attica Veterinary Associates, P.C., Attica, N.Y.

“They can help set up written protocols for calf care processes including colostrum management. At times other than the surges, they can push for training staff.”

Leadley adds that the most important role for the herd veterinarian is in protocol or SOP development. “Once they are in place, then on-farm employees can pick up the training role. Being a good role model as a trainer is, however, an important contribution of the veterinarian.”

It’s a good idea to cross-train – ahead of time – one or two other dairy employees who are not the typical calf caregivers, to help with calves in the event of a surge. They should be trained to feed colostrum, dip navels and tag newborn calves, or feed milk, water or grain to preweaned calves.

Leadley says it’s also not a bad idea to hire one or more temporary employees to help provide newborn care and to provide timely colostrums feeding.

“They really need to be prepared to do the extra work before the surge happens,” Leadley advises. “When you are up to your chin in alligators is a poor time to debate the value of draining the swamp! When you have come to the end of your rope and had to tie a knot in it to hang on the last thing you need is untrained staff to ‘help’ you.”

Read the full article featuring Leadley’s recommendations for dealing with calf surges on the dairy in Bovine Veterinarian here.