tube feeding

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regolith
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tube feeding

Postby regolith » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:37 pm

I agree with this headline:

"Call to limit tube feeding of dairy calves"
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming ... -of-calves

There's a bit of backpedalling by certain individuals claiming that wholesale tubing isn't actually recommended... I recall about three instances this spring that I've read exactly that instruction, published by some authority or other as a guide to good calf rearing. It rankles every time I see it, that's why I remember.

I get the occasional calf where you simply can't be certain that they've suckled, or how much they've suckled, since birth. These are the calves that need human intervention to ensure they get sufficient colostrum. In the middle of the busy season the quickest and most fail-safe method may well be to tube the calf, but my experience has always been that calves that have been tubed are less likely to suckle normally at the next feed, thus the first intervention becomes the beginning of a several day fight to get the calf feeding properly.
Tubes definitely have their place; I have one, and use it from time to time. Their place is *not* for force-feeding healthy calves.
About the repeatedly asserted finding that most calves left with Mom don't get enough I have no comment. That statement has apparently been proved over and over by blood-testing calves. Yet my own observations of my newborn calves each year disprove it. One or two are slow, the occasional calf doesn't even manage to drink on its own. But probably better than 80% are stuffed full of colostrum within two hours of birth, without any human assistance.

Perhaps I err in the other direction in rearing my calves, there are times I know I've made mistakes and an individual calf didn't get enough during the first day or two. Yet my first experiences of tube feeding were negative enough (in calves refusing to suckle after tubing, I've never killed any that way) that I'd rather err in not using it enough.
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Loch Valley Fold
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Re: tube feeding

Postby Loch Valley Fold » Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:56 pm

The only time we've used tubes have been when the calves have been too weak to feed themselves. I did work on a farm where every calf was tube fed if it need it or not I know of a calf that had to be tubed up until it was weaned, pretty sure it didn't last too long after weaning. These calves had no "suck" reflex & I'm convinced it was bred into them to be that way.
On another side note we brought some 1st calf heifers out of 20 17 of them wouldn't push with the contractions so had to pull each & every calf even called to vet out for quiet a few. The vet even said it could have something to do with their breeding. To much human intervention can be a bad thing sometimes
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Putangitangi
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Re: tube feeding

Postby Putangitangi » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:15 pm

I've had one calf in my farming life which might have been saved if I'd had a tube - or actually, if at that stage I'd had a proper calf teat, I may have been able to do some good.
I've never tubed a calf. Any calf which won't feed on its own for some reason, needs in my system to be got onto its mother as quickly as possible. If it's too slow or stupid to do it itself, then I'll bottle some colostrum to it so it gets it in time.

We had one the other day which found those fabulously useful supernumerary teats up the back of the udder and had at least some feed, but failed to find the better options hanging below. We had to feed him a couple of times before he ingested enough intelligence to let his hunger keep him trying for long enough to discover the right teats.

The NZ dairy industry has been allowed to develop some really stupid practices over the years. This is just another one of them. Too much "cows as machines" mindset.
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regolith
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Re: tube feeding

Postby regolith » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:58 am

That same article is in the Oct 15 Straight Furrow that arrived in my mailbox today.

What other stupid practices do you see Putangitangi? I probably have my own pet hates but I know I see the dairy industry from a different angle to where you are.

If you really need a tube... the young cow I called Ghostie; I didn't have a fancy tube feeder when she was attempting to die from calf scours in '06. I kept her alive using a piece of garden hose to get fluids into her. My vet at the time frowned when he learned I was doing that, but at the end of that weekend I had a live and recovering calf.

Loch Valley Fold, that sounds really bizarre. I'm glad I don't have to deal with those problems.
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