4 Simple Ways to Quickly Improve Livestock Health On Your Dairy Farm
Having been in and around the dairy industry for over 30 years has taught me
a lesson or two in regards to what separates good farm operators from great ones.
Not every farmer is aware of the subtle improvements they can implement to drastically improve the health-and well-being of their livestock in their day-to-day operations.
Farmers that make these changes in their day to day operations will quickly see significant results in the overall health of their cattle and increased comfort for both cattle and operators.
Our list of “must do” improvements for your livestock operations including dairy cows, replacement cattle and calves.
1. Clean, bacteria free water (this can not be stressed enough!)
Water is the main ingredient in the diet of a dairy cow.
In order for the cow to perform at her best you need to supply her with a clean, potable water supply.
High bacteria count in the water can have a great impact on the digestive system of the animal. Small calves on dairy farms are easily affected by poor water quality, and a clean, bacteria free water supply is paramount.
Many operators do not see the importance of a water bowl that is so sparkling clean that you would hardly hesitate to drink out of it yourself, yet I've seen time and again that simply improving the water quality on a dairy can result in significant herd health improvements.
Now, contrary to popular belief, water treatment on a dairy does not need to be expensive.
One recent method that we have been using to treat water is by using chlorine dioxide.
This product achieves great results at a very low cost and is accessible to even the smaller, budget conscious operators [It is worth mentioning that this product is not to be compared to other water treatment products litre to litre, but rather on an annual water treatment cost/animal health cost combined]
A handheld water quality tester which reads PH and ORP is an invaluable tool to aid you when safe drinking water for livestock is foremost on your mind, as well as the ATP- meter which reads total bacteria counts.
Both meters are needed when aiming for optimum quality
water since they both have a different function in testing your water.
[Gerlen Dairy, which has tested some new products from Diamond City Farm Supply has seen definite improvements in animal behaviour after installing a water treatment system using chlorine dioxide. It goes without saying that ORP meters and ATP meters aide the proper use of these chemicals.]
[Leah Clark, Livestock specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture has often
mentioned that water is the ‘forgotten ingredient’ in the diet of cattle.]
[Progressive Dairyman has an article on the importance of feeding fresh
water to calves from on day one in the May 18 issue 2020]
[Progressive Dairyman also published an article on the necessity of high
quality water for newborn calves in an earlier issue, March 11 2019]
2. A clean and hygienic environment
All animals should be housed in an environment that is optimal, clean and hygienic.
Optimal: animal should have a well ventilated area, sufficient living space
and comfortable resting areas that are adequately illuminated.
Clean: all animals should have a clean and well-bedded space to live.
Clean meaning that their space is clean of manure and other contaminants.
Areas where animals travel should also be kept as clean as possible whereas animals can attract many organisms through the environment they
Hygienic: ‘clean does not mean hygienic.’.... hygiene is especially important in areas where young animals, fresh cows and calving cows are located.
In those areas animals are usually in need of special care due to sickness,
freshening or injuries that could attract infections quicker than in healthy animals.
In order to protect those animals a higher level of hygiene is required. Disinfection of those areas is very important and a protocol should be put in place to achieve consistent hygienic conditions. A variety of products would be available to accomplish these results. Foam products and chlorine dioxide based products achieve great results at low cost.
Some years ago Israel did extensive research into the use of chlorine dioxide based products and it ranks highly in the use of water treatment and sanitizing.
Together with Acepsis, Diamond City Farm supply distributes these products to farmers across North America who quickly see great improvement in cleanliness of their water supply, quality of sanitizing and overall health and comfort of their livestock.
[ A worthwhile article to look up is in the September 11 issue of 2019 of
Progressive Dairyman, written by a vet, on cleaning and disinfecting water "troughs]
3. All equipment clean and in good repair
A great deal of comfort for your livestock can be achieved with simple maintenance:
-have freestalls straight and mounted solid.
-feedgate should not be operated or kept in shape with baler twine.
-Have all gates hinged properly and equipped with good working locks.
-Keep all running equipment clean and well maintained.
If something breaks down due to lack of maintenance it usually takes longer to repair. (I witnessed an operator one time who came to his shop with some broken/ missing wheel nuts/stubs on his front wheel assisted tractor. He had “no time” to properly fix it and therefore welded everything together. Makes for a lot of unnecessary work down the road!
-Keep walk alleys clean and disinfected, this helps against tracking diseases all through the facilities and creates a better work environment.
(“ If you don’t make a mess then you do not have to clean it up either”
By being organized and clean one can eliminate a lot of “extra” work on the farm
4. Perform on-farm diagnostics as much as possible
On farm testing is gaining popularity with the rapid increase in the various testing tools available today. Operators can react to issues on the farm a lot faster when they have results within minutes instead of days.
Let’s look at calf scours:
When a calf comes down with scours most operators just throw antibiotics at that problem. Research has proven however that antibiotics often do not
achieve the results we are looking for. With a simple on-farm test like Surechek4 it can be determined in short order what bacteria/ virus is affecting the calf. Informed decisions can then be made in regards to treatment protocol.
With a small but accurate HORIBA calcium tester the operator can be informed if the animal needs calcium and when. By being properly informed the animal can benefit greatly from having the proper amount of calcium administered to her. Calcium administered at the correct dose and at the right time can have a significant effect on the lactating period of that animal.
Let’s look at cows affected by mastitis:
On farm testing for mastitis is gaining a lot of popularity. By fast test results, timely action and proper administration of treatment, one can prevent loss of cows and or production.
[Note: when I say “proper administration of treatment”, I chose the word ‘treatment’ instead of drugs. Some of you may be aware of the fact that besides the use of traditional drugs there is a new and promising way of treatment for mastitis developed by Armenta, an Israeli company ; Armenta works with something comparable to sonic waves. We have been working with Armenta extensively over the past months and look forward to working with them as their distributor for Canada].
Various mastitis testing systems are on the market which can achieve very good results in a short period of time. Depending on your budget we can provide you with the system which fits your needs and budget. One of the more accurate testing systems on the market is a system provided by Diamond City Farm Supply made by ACUMEN DETECTION. This system can provide results in as little as three hours.
Let’s look at barn illumination:
How often do you eat in a dark or sparsely lit room?
Now think about your cows!
Do they have adequate lighting in their living and eating space?
With a simple handheld tester, a Digital Luminance meter, you can determine whether or not your animals live in a sufficiently lit-up space. Research has shown that well-lit barns at the right times can have great impact on the feed intake of your cattle.
Let’s look at air quality :
A small handheld ammonia tester can determine the air quality the animals are breathing in at the level where the animal eats or sleeps. Too high ammonia levels can have a great impact on the health of the animals.
I know it might seem overwhelming to read about diagnostic testing and testers if this is the first time you are reading about them. We'd love to talk to you about the different options available for your farm!
For those of you who are familiar with this type of testing: test kits and testers can be ordered directly through our online store at DiamondCityFarmSupply.com, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
For most dairy operators the well-being of their livestock is of utmost importance to them. Most true farmers are enthusiastic when they see what small, targeted improvements can accomplish. This enthusiasm is the aim of Diamond City Farm Supply!
In conclusion I would like to say: We are passionate about what we do. Seeing health herds and farmers succeeding...there is a real sense of satisfaction in it!
Looking forward to sharing more information with you in the future!