I was invited to a three-day dairy veterinary nutrition conference sponsored by Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed. Twenty-eight dairy veterinarians from around the country were in attendance for this excellent meeting, and several opportunities for dairy veterinarians working with calves were evident.

Using remote “clickers” veterinarians answered a few questions about their clients/practices with results immediately showing on a graph on the screen. Some of the most important:

  • 78% of veterinarians in attendance said they spent less than 5% of their time on farm visits with calves.
  • 89% said most pre-weaned calves are underfed.
  • 81.5% said clients sometimes ask for nutritional advice on calves; 18.5% said clients never ask.

I think this information is an opportunity road map. Baby calves are the future of the dairy operation and their early care is critical to health and future performance. Why do veterinarians spend so little time evaluating the calves? It’s obvious times have changed and the nutrition information we have now shows that the thin underfed calf is going to be the poor-doer in the group, especially in times of cold stress or pathogen pressure. Poor nutrition not only affects the immediate immune status, but research shows it also affects future growth and performance.

Amelia Woolums from the University of Georgia gave updates on current immunology concepts (see "Maternal cells in colostrum"). Don Sockett from the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory spoke about abomasal bloat, D-lactic acidosis in calves  and diagnostic sampling and submissions. Nutritionists Bob James, Mike Van Amburgh and Tom Earleywine had great discussions on baby dairy calf nutrition as well as troubleshooting problems.

A visit to the research dairy farm in Grays Summit, Mo., was a highlight even on a rainy day. Sophisticated research from the newborn calf on up to lactating cows is a round-the-clock business for the folks at Land O’ Lakes Purina Feed.

Check back here for further practice tips and updates from the meeting.