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THE MOO NEWS

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care December 2004

NOTICE: PLEASE MAKE YOUR CALLS FOR REGULAR WORK BETWEEN 6:30 - 8:00 AM - NOT BEFORE AND NOT AFTER. THIS INCLUDES HERD CHECKS, SICK ANIMALS, MEDICINE DROP-OFFS, ETC. REMEMBER THAT I ACCEPT EMERGENCY CALLS AT ANY TIME, 24/7. SO, PHONE CALLS BEFORE 6:30 AM THAT ARE NOT EMERGENCIES WILL BE CHARGED ACCORDINGLY AND PHONE CALLS MADE AFTER 8 AM FOR REGULAR WORK (HERD CHECKS, SICK COWS, MEDICINE DROP-OFFS) WILL BE CONSIDERED LATE AND CHARGED ACCORDINGLY. IF YOU SIMPLY HAVE A QUESTION THAT NEEDS ANSWERING, DO THIS BETWEEN 6:30 - 8:00 AM, OTHERWISE A CHARGE MAY BE APPLIED. CALLS IN THE EVENING FOR THE NEXT DAY ARE FINE.

Hi Folks,

Looking back at a few years worth of Moo News editions, I see that I usually talk about pneumonia around this time of year. And, lo and behold, I certainly have been seeing coughing animals again this past month. My thoughts on pneumonia in cattle haven't changed much over time, although they are a bit more defined at this point. More and more, I have come to believe that damp bedding is likely a critical factor for calves to come down with pneumonia. It certainly isn't the only factor --poor ventilation is the main culprit, although mixing poor ventilation with damp bedding is a sure recipe for pneumonia in calves. The beautiful stone barns we have in our local area are actually one of the main areas for pneumonia germs to lurk. When we have damp, chilly weather --as we so often do at this time of year -- the old stone structures remain moist and air does not move well, especially in corners. Those corners happen to be where calf box stalls usually are. The only structures worse than the old stone barns are cinder block buildings, since they tend to be chilly in general. Dampness in block buildings is a major factor towards pneumonia, especially if present together with damp bedding. The good thing about block buildings is that you can knock blocks out and put in curtains which will greatly improve ventilation. In either type of building, having calves close to cows along with damp bedding, nearly guarantees that you will hear at least some coughing in young stock. Often times it is just a dry, hack of a cough. But that can lead to worse situations.

What can you control to make things less likely for pneumonia to hit the calves? Dry bedding and lots of it, added whenever needed. I have recently taken to placing my palms upon the ground in pens with coughing calves and the bedding is nearly always damp or worse. Young animals (that also may be parasitized and stressed) will never feel comfortable lying upon constantly damp bedding. It just won't do. Straw and fodder are great, sawdust can be good -- these allow moisture to seep down before it accumulates at the surface where the animals are. Newspaper is not good in this regard as dampness stays right on top once it is wetted.

What is worse, poor ventilation and cold, damp bedding or poor ventilation and a warm stuffy barn? The answer, in my opinion, is that they are equally as bad, but perhaps the warm stuffy barn is worse for the just fresh adult cows and the cold, damp bedding and poor ventilation is worse for young stock. Good, clean, crisp air is great for calves and cows. They are meant to be outside and not cooped up inside all the time. When inside in tie stalls in the winter, try to have some windows open to allow air exchange. Air exchange will help move accumulated ammonia away from surface areas of calf pens and thereby lessen irritation of the windpipe by ammonia (from urine). In Virginia style barns (counter slope barns) with manure pits right below them, if the air is not moving much, the fumes from the pit below can cause a kind of chemical irritation to the windpipe and coughing will be heard. This can happen in the hazy heat of summer or on drizzly days now. If this becomes long standing, it may allow true pathogens to invade the windpipe and gain access to the lower lungs.

Without doubt, individual hutches are the way to go to minimize coughing and pneumonia. But -- you need to keep up with bedding them as well! There are few things nicer to see than a calf chewing its cud while lying down comfortably on dry bedding in a hutch on a cold rainy and windy day. The multi-calf kennels come in a close second, but make sure that the calves have a small run to be outside of their individual kennel stall. It is also very important to make sure that any kennel situation is facing a direction which allows air to move freely into the front 1/3 of the kennel stalls and not perpendicular across and above their dividers. Also remember to clean and move hutches to new locations after every calf to minimize contamination between calves. Kennels can be moved, too, but it more difficult. They really should be, at least once in a while.

Box stalls in barns obviously cannot be moved and perhaps that is part of the reason that they seem to be magnets for diseases, especially those near the adult cows. It is just difficult to clean them out very often. If you are thinking about the heat generated in a bedded pack that kills germs, that is correct, at least if you continuously adding bedding as a carbon source. I'm not sure which material is best to mix in, just as long it is not straight manure.

In summary& & .. Actually, do I need to summarize what I have just repeated many times? Instead, think of the Christmas story and the manger where Jesus was born. It is usually imagined and drawn with animals at peace watching over the newborn Savior - with lots and lots of dry straw everywhere.

For sale: Ben M. Stoltzfus has a 75% Friesen (Friesen-Holstein) bull for sale, bought originally from Dave Forgey. Ben also has 6 Friesen-Holstein certified organic breeding age heifers running with a Jersey bull and 6 1/2yr -1yr old calves for sale. His phone number 717-768-3437.

 

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:
www.bovinityhealth.com

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