Routine calf health visits have a big role to play in improving total protein results

We collated these results for a presentation at the BCVA (British Cattle Vets Association) congress in Birmingham, and the results have been very interesting so we thought it would be good to share them with you all.

Blood sampling calves between 24 hours and 7 days old has become common practice to assess total protein (TP) levels in their blood. This can be used as a proxy for the level of antibodies passed from the dam to calf via colostrum in early life. It is essential for this be successful to ensure calves have immune protection in early life whilst their own immune system develops.

Graph 1 – TP results each year since 2016 when variation between farms is accounted for.

Recently Jake in Derbyshire has reviewed all the TP results collected since 2016, which now total 6750. It was found overall that 38% (n = 2534) of calves failed to achieve successful passive transfer. To put this in context a recent study in Scotland (Johnson et al. 2021) found 40% of calves failed to achieve successful passive transfer and an older one undertaken in SW England (MacFarlane et al. 2015) found only 26% of calves failed. These studies used the same threshold for pass/fail as we use in the practice. At a herd level we’ll aim for less than 20% of calves failing to achieve successful passive transfer as an indicator of an effective colostrum management policy.

It is evident results have improved over time since we started recording this information in 2016. Our last full year of results in 2021 found 30.7% of calves failed from 2031 sampled. We focus on this area quite heavily in calf health management as it well established that calves failing to achieve an adequate level of antibodies in their blood are over 2 times more likely to die, 1.75 times more likely to suffer from pneumonia and 1.5 times more likely to suffer from diarrhoea in the early rearing period (Raboisson et al. 2016).

Graph 1 shows the actual TP results year on year since 2016 and accounts for the variation which exists between different farms within the dataset. This clearly shows an increase each year in the TP results and was found to be statistically significant. I feel this demonstrates how engaging in routine calf health monitoring, such as with our VetTechs can really help improve calf health.