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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care February 2012

Hi Folks,

I’d like to talk about fresh cow problems as we come towards a lot of freshening cows in the next few months. If you don’t have any fresh cow problems, count yourself very fortunate and you probably don’t have US/Canadian Holsteins. This is especially true in regards to digestive disturbances after obstetric problems and not enough effective fiber is eaten to rapidly create a healthy rumen. I personally like Holsteins a whole lot as my family is from Holland. I also like to easily see black and white animals on green pastures. The only other breed that has a well known problem is Jerseys when they are older and are famous for getting milk fever.

Let’s first talk about preventing problems. Proper exercise is as critical as a high forage diet for health for all cows, and especially dry cows so the uterine muscles have good tone. If feeding only baleage to dry cows, watch out for too high a soluble protein as that can upset a cow’s system. Metabolic energy will be required of the cow to process the excessive protein and this can lead to loss of body condition. Always be feeding some sort of DRY hay to DRY cows. Also with dry cows, feed relatively more negative ions (S-2, SO4-2, Cl-1, HCO3-2), while with “wet”/milking cows feed relatively more positive ions (Ca+2, Mg+2 and K+1 ).

If you have a bred cow that is showing a red discharge you MUST check her to see what is going on. A red discharge in a pregnant animal is a red flag!  A red discharge later in pregnancy may mean that she’s calving early, which is common with twins. Restrain the cow, tie the tail out of the way, wash up the vulva area really well, put on a sleeve, apply lube and then reach into the birth canal and feel what is going on. Most likely a calf will be nearby and you might need to help rearrange its limbs. Always have a cow standing when rearranging limbs. Cup your hand over a hoof and bring the hoof towards center midline of the calf while bending the leg the way it naturally wants to. Then straighten the leg and bring forward.  Always keep calving fluids away from other cows!

In an AI bred cow that freshens on time but doesn’t pass the placenta, this is a problem and you’ll have to deal with it. But if it happens to a few animals, look to dry cow nutrition. If seen in a bunch of younger animals, you need to start feeding organically bound selenium for a few weeks or one injection of MuSe® 2-3 weeks prior to due date. If it’s in older cows, think calcium – especially if there are some muscles occasionally quivering over the shoulder blades, upper belly and leg muscles. Use apple cider vinegar 2 oz twice daily for two weeks prior to freshening to keep blood calcium levels up.

Be careful of low calcium since the muscles that control the teat sphincters at the very bottom of the teat may be weak and not close tightly between milking times. This is how environmental bugs get in and causes horrible problems (especially coliforms). 

Springing heifers with a lot of fluid under their belly (edema) is almost always due to getting too much salt. Remember: where salt goes, water goes. Too much salt in the system will retain water, creating edema. Don’t let springers have free choice salt if edema is a problem. In older cows, udder edema can be due to so much protein going to the udder to make colostrum and vessels become leaky. Cows and heifers with udder edema can be treated by using 4 capsules of regular coffee right out of the container (not decaf) twice daily as needed. They’ll reduce fluid build up by urinating more.

If for any reason a cow has anything other than a normal start to lactation, always feed DRY hay (not only baleage) for the first week of lactation. Make sure she gets extra dry hay as this will create the fiber mat she needs from which to chew cud. If a heifer has a hard calving and she is all of a sudden eating a radically different ration than she was when happily running freely outdoors, she will be in for a difficult first couple weeks. An almost certain recipe for a twisted stomach (especially a heifer) is a hard calving with a retained placenta fed lots of high moisture corn, corn silage and grain, with little dry hay or long stem baleage. I’ve done hundreds of DA surgeries on such cows. Feed dry hay!!

If a cow doesn’t pass the placenta (usually due to twinning, a large calf or if calving early), what should be done? After about 4-5 days of a festering uterine infection, this is where “the solution to pollution is dilution” for sure. You need to manually lavage (cleanse) the uterus. You’re kidding yourself if you think working on her one time will mean she’ll be just fine. It’s exactly those cows that will have a pus discharge over the next months. You need to cleanse the uterine environment every single day before the cervix closes down and traps bad stuff in the uterus to linger and fester into pus. Using 300 cc of aloe everyday is good. But sometimes it’s good to place 1 gram of iodine pills or mix in 1 gram of liquid iodine with the aloe to infuse into the uterus daily.

Old and cold cows that have some muscle quivers need calcium - even if they are standing. I prefer IV treatment because I have seen way too many cows drowned when oral fluids were given wrong. To give an IV, have the cow’s head tied downward with her face tied real snug against something. The jugular vein will bulge and show itself. Hold the calcium bottle no higher than the backbone. AVOID giving any IV in the milk vein of a first calf heifer, as their milk veins are not big like in older cows. If an animal starts getting kicky, she is telling you that the needle is not in the vein and an abscess will develop, keeping her painful and slow for about 3 weeks (very counter-productive).

Cows with hot coliform mastitis show a hot hard quarter with a watery secretion are usually off-feed and have a fever of about 104. DO NOT delay treatment! Give the well known organic IV treatment (Plasma Gold anti-toxin, 500cc vitamin C antioxidant and 60-90cc of goldenseal, garlic, ginseng Phyto-Biotic antibacterial). This also happens to be the same treatment for those first calf heifers with signs of pneumonia or any animal that is systemically ill with a fever.

In this article are examples of problems I’ve successfully treated hundreds of times over the years. Until grazing season is here, dry bedding, fresh air, high forage diets and the tips above will keep animals healthy and help you treat those that need to be.

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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