As we arrived early, I had time to go to the calves’ shed before the afternoon milking shift. It was amazing to see how big they had grown in just 4 weeks, as some of them were a few days old when I saw them last.
It was an ideal opportunity to assess their health in preparation for any treatments. I was informed that a few calves had a high temperature and they were coughing. I spotted a little heifer who appeared lifeless, laying in her pen. I made a note of these before returning to the cow shed to scrape the beds and encourage the cows into the milking parlour. After seeing a cow with a ‘D’ on their backside, I found out that this cow had been identified as having Bovine Digital ‘D’ermatitis which presents as lesions on the foot, it can not only be the cause of lameness but can reduce milk yield.
Over a few hours, along with two other workers, I milked 250 cows. This time, I had to override some of the machines by inputting the cow’s number in as it is important to measure milk production and food consumption.
If a cow was too eager to come into the parlour and had her head through the curtains, this cow would not be scanned in and this would affect all the subsequent cow identifications.When the cow enters the parlour, their collars are scanned in for the milking device identification. Therefore, we had to ensure that before letting a row of 12 cows in, that the leading cow was behind the scanner.
There are 12 milking devices and 2 rows of 12 cows either side of the parlour. Therefore, it is important to be on your toes, to do two jobs at once. The milkers automatically retract once the cow has been milked, this can be relatively fast… or I can be waiting for one cow out of the whole row in order to get 12 more cows into the parlour! In addition to this, consideration has to be taken for cows with coloured tape around their tail. These are colour coded for: antibiotics in system (which means they have to be milked into a separate tank), if the milking device needs to be dipped into acid before use on another cow and if the cow only has 3 functioning teats. Milk with antibiotics is MUST be dumped, and definitely not added to the main tank- otherwise it would all have to be disposed of. If a cow only has 3 functioning teats, I will place a stopper in a teat cup.
Everything was running smoothly, until I looked up and saw a cow was about to take a dump and although I dodged it, it hit the surface and splatted all over my face. The perks of being short!
Afternoon milking complete means one thing… calf feeding! I love spending time with the calves as they are so inquisitive and playful.
Many of the little calves wear coats so they are not using calories to keep warm. This promotes growth and therefore a reduction in food costs (they also look very cute).
To prevent Cryptosporidium parvum, I gave an oral solution to the newborn calves- the active ingredient is Halofuginone base. Cryptosporidium can cause calf scour so to prevent the spread, it is important to treat calves with Halocur in the first 24-48 hours of their lives. It affects the life cycle of the parasite, reducing the responsibility of the calf’s immune system whilst enabling it to build up resistance.
However, prevention is better than a cure. Colostrum is vital to ensure the calves are not immunosuppressed.
Once I had got to the other end of the shed, where the poorly heifer was, I could see that she had made no improvement. With all animals, the sight and smell of food can make them perk up but after I poured her milk, she remained curled up. Pneumonia often causes a reduction in eating and drinking, which in turn can affect the immune system and calf growth.
These viruses can predispose a bacterial infection by damaging the upper respiratory tract’s defence:
Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR)
Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV)
Parainfluenza-3 virus (PI3)
Bovine Coronavirus (BCV)
In chronic cases: Trueperella pyogenes
I first administered ‘Alamycin’ in an intramuscular injection. This is a broad spectrum antibiotic.
I then administered ‘Resflor’ in an intradermal injection. Resflor contains Florfenicol and Flunixin so it is an antibiotic, anti inflammatory and anti pyrexic for the treatment of bovine respiratory disease complex.
This was a really interesting experience for me as this little one was my first ever patient I have injected. She was very sweet and due to her exhaustion, an easy first injection. The same can’t be said for the calf I injected afterwards, as she was very lively. A few other calves had high temperatures and had symptoms of pneumonia so I injected them with ‘Alamycin’.
The calf was fed through an oesophageal feeding probe as she needed fluid and nutrients.
It is important to ensure that the tube goes down the oesophagus and not the trachea. Likewise, if the fluid runs into the calf’s mouth, it can be inhaled into the lungs.This can be done by feeling the calf’s neck; the trachea has cartilaginous rings but the oesophagus is smooth.