Getting Value from a Preventative Trim - by Craig Lawrence
The hoof horn in a dairy cow grows faster in the few weeks before calving and for about 100 days after calving, this growth then slows down until she is close to calving again. Getting a preventative trim in to all milking cows at 50-80 days in milk makes sure this increased horn growth doesn't contribute to sole bruising, or develop into a full blown sole ulcer.
Once a cow or heifer has a sole ulcer, she will be a sole ulcer risk for life so we must pre-empt that risk, pro-actively rebalance the foot and set them up for a successful lactation.
Around calving the hormones which relax the ligaments in the pelvis also relax ligaments supporting the small pedal bone in the hoof which can sink into the soft tissue next to the horn. The inflammation and damage to this soft tissue in the foot causes bruising initially, which can then progress to an ulcer and ends up as a lame cow. Once that pinching occurs, the foot will need a quick trim every 3-4 months to rebalance the hoof around the sole ulcer site and take away that pressure point.
Early identification and treatment of a simple bruise or early sole ulcer with a rebalance trim and a block can mean the lesion is healed within a few weeks, but if that ulcer develops or becomes infected the healing time can turn into months, and some of these won't heal, may need a claw amputation or end up as a cull.
Cubicle comfort and lying time play a huge role in sole ulcer prevention. Cows should be lying down for 14 hours in every 24 hour period - the rule of thumb is you can take 4 hours from her for milking/vet checks/AI etc but the other 20 hours are hers to feed and rest. A cow will get up and down on average 16 times in that 24 hour period so making sure the cubicles fit, have a comfortable surface and don't restrict her getting up or down will encourage her lying times.
On some farms heifers can be a real risk group for sole ulcers forming too - especially if they haven't met a cubicle before and they spend too much time on their feet in those early few weeks of lactation.
How many heifers had sole ulcers on your farm last year?
Lame cow trims will always be a priority, but don't forget the value in scheduling in an early lactation preventative trim before she's gone lame. The trim is quicker, we get much better cure rates and stop that bruise becoming a long term pinch point in the foot.
For any trimming enquiries please get in touch: Craig Lawrence 07779 017878
Biofilms & Calf Health
A biofilm is a build up of bacteria that grows on the proteins or fats left behind by milk residue. It grows everywhere the milk touches but is found most commonly in buckets, milk taxis and calf feeders. The biofilm is invisible but is a huge reservoir of bacteria which can shed into the next batch of fresh milk.
A biofilm usually starts from improper cleaning: either the first wash is too hot so the whey proteins melt onto the surface of the bucket or feeder or the first wash is too cold so fats drop out of solution and attach to the surface.
Bacteria recognise these residues and attach to the protein, fat or lactose, cementing themselves to the surface. Once the bacteria are cemented on they produce a slime or "matrix" to protect themselves - this then attracts in more bacteria to join the party. Once these matrixes have developed, it is easier for more milk residue to stick on which gives abundant food for the thriving population of bacteria.
This mature biofilm is invisible to the naked eye; only after months do you start to see a yellow hard scum forming which you can scratch off with a nail. At this point when the biofilm is mature, there's maximum bacterial shedding into the milk, and no amount of disinfectant or scrubbing will shift it.
What is the risk of a biofilm to a calf?
Milk, and especially colostrum, is a wonderful growth medium for bacteria - the levels of bacteria in warm colostrum doubles every 20 minutes and massively affect the antibody levels in the colostrum, so collect colostrum cleanly, use it straight away or get it in the fridge or freezer for storage.
Pathogens such as E coli, Salmonella, Crypto and Mycoplasma can all get involved in the biofilm too and cause direct disease in calves leading to increases in scours and pneumonia.
How do you prevent a biofilm forming?
Every time a piece of equipment is used for colostrum or milk it will need cleaning with a luke warm water rinse to flush the milk proteins and fats out, followed by a hot detergent wash and then finish with a warm water acid rinse. Calf buckets then need to be left to dry in a clean environment before next use.
GB Dairy Calf Strategy 2020-2023
Many of you will be aware from the news as well as pressure from your contract or milk buyer, that there is increasing focus on the fate of the dairy bred male calf and it's place in the wider UK beef industry.
New Red Tractor standards regarding male dairy calves went to consultation in June 2020 and will be coming into effect by October 2021. It states: "You must have a written breeding and management policy in place and implemented so there is no routine euthanasia of calves" - this standard will include a breeding plan with projected semen use, provision of housing for 100% of calves born over a 10 day period, a market for the breed of calf produced and a plan in place in case of a TB breakdown.
The second standard is to increase the data collected around number of calvings, births and the timings of any deaths or sales in the first 42 days of life - this is to make sure that the breeding policy is being implemented.
Earlier this year, sales of sexed semen overtook conventional for the first time: advances in the sorting technology for some of the sexed semen companies means conception rates are comparable and opens up the wider use of sexed across the herd. This obviously has a knock on effect on numbers of male dairy calves that are born and will be an increasingly important tool in breeding policies on farm for the future.
Keep an eye out - an emerging disease?
Three local dairy farms have had newborn eye problems in calves born over the past month or so.
Calves are born with a pink lesion over the front surface of the eye, sometimes on both sides and are blind or have limited vision. There has been limited success with treatment, no patterns with sire or evidence of an infectious cause.
Please get in touch if you see any strange eye lesions or blindness in newborn calves on your farm so we can examine the eye, get swabs and samples taken pre-treatment as APHA would like to investigate any further cases.
APHA Thin Ewe Project
Want to get to the bottom of what's causing your thin ewes?
APHA are running a "Thin Ewe Project" and are offering three free post-mortem investigations per farm by the end of December so get in touch if you've got a few culls that were a bit too thin to tup, or any thin empties after scanning.