cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, April, 2011

Robust and practical discussions about herd-tracking software; custom heifer raising; flunixin; feeding withheld milk to calves; effects of peroxide on o-rings; and more.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Producer Representative and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added April 5, 2011. A young, start-up farmer asked the list for advice about custom heifer raising. It was suggested that he keep his contract with the heifer grower as simple as possible. One producer shared that he had very good luck by raising his own calves up to 6 months, to make sure they are off to a good start. Then he moves them to the heifer raiser, where he pays a flat $2/head/day until they return as springers, usually at 24 months. The fee includes the cost of grain and minerals. He leases the bull, and puts it in with the
heifers to be bred, so the heifer-raiser does not incur any breeding costs. He also pays for a de-wormer (he uses Crystal Creek Pivot) and any other health products that become necessary.

Another farmer who raises heifers for others charges a bit less at $1.80 per day, including grain. He feels that it is a benefit to his farm's fertility to have the extra manure. This gives him a way to recycle his extra hay and straw on the farm and keep all the nutrients cycling on his own land. From a veterinarian's point of view came one post that reminded us to use an intranasal vaccine about a week before moving animals onto or off of your farm to avoid the "train wreck" that shipping fever can cause. He mentioned Nasalgen and TSV-2, and there is a new one out there as well. He also cautioned that homeopathic nosodes don't work well as a prevention for shipping fever. Another farmer added that the new intranasal vaccine is called Inforce.

A producer asked what software people are using to keep track of their herds. One farmer uses Scout from Dairy One; another has outgrown Scout and is changing to DairyCom; another farmer is happy using DairyLive; several farmers highly recommended PCDART from DHIA. Two producers are using grazing software; they recommended Endeavor from Computer Concepts and Agrinet.

There was a lengthy discussion that began with questions raised in a newspaper article about flunuxin (Banamine). Flunixin is allowed for use in organic production and is available only by
prescription. We were reminded of the requirement to double all milk and meat withholding times. Flunixin is prescribed usually as an IV, and that is the only withholding time mentioned on the bottle. But it is often administered in the muscle, and that greatly effects the withholding. It was suggested that you ask your vet for an appropriate withholding for the route you will use, and then you can double it accordingly.

Having a lengthy withholding time brought up the subject of feeding calves the waste milk from these cows that have been treated with allowable substances. The NOSB has recommended that this practice be allowed, but this has not been adopted by the NOP. There was a spirited discussion that followed, and it became clear that a few certifyers allow withheld milk to be fed to calves. A retired NOP rule-maker clarified that the current
regulations prohibit feeding milk from an animal whose milk is being withheld due to being treated with a substance that has an established withholding period.

A producer had a cow abort a calf prematurely. There remained behind a mummified calf in one horn of her uterus, and the cow cannot be bred back. The response from a vet was not very hopeful; he suggested that surgery is sometimes an option or an infusion of herbal abortifacients may work. Rarely, they may dump it out on their own.

Another producer asked why mummified calves happen in the first place, and what does it mean if a farmer sees quite a few of them. If it is just a one-time event, many things relating to the health of the cow or her calf could have caused it. But it could also be a sign of BVD, especially if there is a history of mummified calves in the last 2 years. Then the cows should be tested for Persistent Infected BVD status. Vaccines will not work for those individuals, but will help to stop the problems from spreading.

A farmer has been injecting hydrogen peroxide in the water for eight months to combat high iron levels; she started with 150ppm for six weeks, then reduced it to a maintenance level of
25-30ppm. But she it now seeing water leaks in taps and faucets - and the o-rings in the valves are very worn. One producer explained that peroxide will degrade rubber, and suggested replacing the old rubber parts with silicone parts. He also suggested that since she has reduced the concentration of peroxide, there should be less damage.