Animal Health Diagnostic Center

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New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program


herd health Farm-specific herd health plans are good preventive medicine

Herd Health


Welcome to the Loe Farm

Loe Farm

Maternity Pen and Pre-weaned calf area

Large maternity barn

The dry cow/calf barn is the old, original barn on the farm. Close-up cows and springing heifers are kept together on a bedded pack in approximately half of what is called the calf barn. There is a round bale feeder in the pen and a wooden feed trough running the length of the calf pen approximately one foot off the pack. Hay is free choice and the TMR is hand forked into the trough each day. The feed trough is open on the calf pen side so that the calves have access to forage on their way to weaning. There is a large, single water tub, filled by a hose, just outside the barn. The cows have free access to the barnyard.

The cows freshen in the dry cow pack. If the herdsman notices, a close-up cow is moved to a gated corner of the pack to freshen unless occupied by a sick cow. The sick cow pen butts up against two pens where there are early weaned calves. If that area is full, or he fails to notice, the cow freshens with the dry cows on the bedded pack. The calf is separated immediately from it's dam, make that, when the owner notices. It is “immediately” to him.

The stanchions have been removed and replaced with a series of wooden pens, each about 10 feet square for the calves. As these calves grow, they are moved down the line to the next pen, with larger calves already there. Calves are moved from one pen to the next based on their size, not their age. It is a “domino scheme” and co-mingling of animals all along this line is obvious. There are six of these pens, with the last two being the post-weaning pens.

When the calf is born it is given colostrum by nipple bottle or by stomach tube. “As much as we can get down it,” according to the owner. He says he tries for three quarts, with a minimum of two quarts for each calf. Colostrum is pooled and frozen and used if a dam does not have enough colostrum of her own. The calf is then moved into one of the pens with other calves of similar size.

Calves are fed a 20-20 calf starter containing an antibiotic and a coccidiostat. Nipple bottles are used and are rinsed at the end of feeding all the calves. Calves are fed starting with the smallest and finishing with the largest. A water pail is hung on the side of each pen, with the exception of the first two pens (the smallest calves).Large maternity pen

Ventilation and light is poor throughout the barn. The owner complains that his calf losses approach 50%. His solution for the problem of mortality is to buy every vaccine he can think of and start vaccinating at day one or two, repeating every two weeks. Rotavirus, E.coli, Salmonella vaccines are given in addition to the standard vaccines. They are purchased from the route truck. He has been dipping navels in straight Lugol’s Solution for the past year and still complains of everything from scalds to umbilical hernias to joint abscesses. The owner complains that it is costing him over $75.00 to vaccinate each of these calves and his losses still hover around 50%. Dead calves are dragged into the woods at the edge of the heifer pasture.

Post-weaning heifers are moved to two group pens that are 10x10 and are contiguous with the sick pens and the pre-weaning pens (see diagram). Each group has 5-6 two month old calves in it. The pens share a common wall that consists of a gate. Calves are fed growing calf pellets, corn silage and hay. They have half a plastic barrel for water (for both pens) that gets cleaned when the pack gets cleaned. The pack underneath is always wet and spongy.

The pack in the whole barn is cleaned when it gets too high for the gates to work or calves begin jumping over the top. All the calf pens have to be cleaned by hand because of the partitions of the pen. However, a skidsteer can scrape out most of the pack where the dry cows are housed.

Additional management practices:

  • A hired man feeds the calves as part of his series of chores. The weekend crew is different and has responsibility for feeding the calves.
  • The owner and herdsman pride themselves with being university graduates from a prominent upstate 4-year agricultural college with graduate programs. The herdsman has an MS with the same institution and maintains an extensive database in a computer in his barn office. The farm uses DHI and Dairy Comp 305.
  • Because of calf losses, the owner purchases heifers and milking cows whenever he can.
  • The barn refrigerator is chock full of bottles of vaccine, antibiotics, and fluids. Some bottles have needles in the stoppers and a couple bottles have a syringe attached to the needle still in the bottle. No records of purchase or use are kept and expiration dates are ignored. However, the animal receiving the drug is recorded in the database. Some bottles have their labels either gone or illegible. The barn freezer holds colostrum frozen into a big ball of ice because the freezer door is loose and the unit needs defrosting badly.
  • The farm has routine herd health once a month. It consists mostly of pregnancy checks and advice about treating infertility and the mastitis cases. The veterinarian tells me he 'does not go there' when it comes to the calves, because the owner and herdsman have not listened to him in the past and they purchase all those drugs and vaccines over-the-counter. The farm has been cited in the past for residue violations in cull cattle and veal calves.
  • Down, dying and dead cows are removed from the sick pen via the entrance through the barnyard (refer to diagram).

Management Areas of the Loe Farm: