Do you have a Calf Herd Program?

While Lung Ultrasound is the cornerstone of any good Calf Herd Health Program, there are many other benefits to getting your herd vet in your calf barn on a regular basis.
While Lung Ultrasound is the cornerstone of any good Calf Herd Health Program, there are many other benefits to getting your herd vet in your calf barn on a regular basis.
(Farm Journal)

In the last decade, the dairy industry has been moving away from its record production of replacement heifers and moving more towards the production of more beef crosses.  According to the USDA’s 2022 annual Cattle Report, this has resulted in a decrease in national heifer inventories by 3.4%.  To ensure we will continue producing quality animals, despite this reduced inventory volume, the industry has invested millions of dollars into superior semen and genomic testing for the remaining replacements.  

One great example of a way to craft investment protection comes with a new revelation in the industry, the Calf Herd Health Program.  This program has led to more intensive management programs; causing our clients to reevaluate their opinions about calf management. 

Lung Ultrasound

As Calf Herd Health Programs become more and more popular among our clients, they have begun to invest more training, equipment, and time in disease detection within their young stock herd which has improved their end results. The core of these programs is like an adult herd health program in that it revolves around the diagnostic ultrasound machine and utilizes a technique called thoracic aka: Lung Ultrasound, to diagnose subclinical pneumonia.

Based on the literature and our experience, we know that anywhere between 7 to 22% of calves will experience clinical pneumonia in our calf herds. This technology allows for the detection of this health event well before clinical signs occur which helps to protect against the 1,200 lb. milk loss associated with clinical pneumonia established by Ollivett and Dunn in 2018.

Lung Ultrasound is a relatively simple technology in which a veterinarian can scan a calf in about a minute. The scan evaluates lung tissue for signs of lung consolidation which are areas of lung tissue that can no longer fill with air due to damage from a respiratory infection.

While Lung Ultrasound is the cornerstone of any good Calf Herd Health Program, there are many other benefits to getting your herd vet in your calf barn regularly. Even if you or your employees are taking excellent care of your calves, it can be easy to miss small daily changes that might be better diagnosed by a less involved outside eye.  Additionally, your herd vet can better detect protocol drift within your barn; a level of quality control that might have been missed without such a program.

Our clients have articulated high praises for our Calf Herd Health Programs.  As we’ve become more active members of our client’s calf consulting team, we’ve been better able to detect vaccine protocol drift, errors in feeding, head off diarrheal diseases, detect infected navels as well as joints before they are untreatable and have diagnosed/successfully treated hundreds of calves with subclinical pneumonia that would have otherwise gone undetected and untreated.  These actions have resulted in reduced postweaning costs and disease rates, higher survival to first calving rates, and more thrifty animals overall.

These clients have received all these benefits at a cost that ranges from $5-$15 per calf.  This is a small investment when you consider the elevated importance of each animal in today’s market.  I invite you to open the lines of dialog with your herd vet and ask them if they would consider helping you protect your investment via a Calf Herd Heath Program during your next herd check.   


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