Important changes to note in the dairy calf and heifer association’s 2020 gold standards
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) has created the Gold Standards, a set of recommendations to help producers take the best care of their youngstock with actionable benchmarks.
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) has created the Gold Standards, a set of recommendations to help producers take the best care of their youngstock with actionable benchmarks. Starting in 2011, the DCHA has made this information readily accessible to their members with an easy-to-read guide. The second edition was released in 2016 and the third in 2020.
The categories listed within these recommendations include:
- Health Status
- Survival & Growth Rate
- Newborn Care
- Colostrum Administration and Management
- Nutrition and Water
- Health Management
- Housing & Environment
- Pregnant Heifer Management
- Handling & Transportation
Some notable changes from the 2016 to the 2020 edition include:
- There were a variety of changes and additions regarding colostrum.
- The recommended time for refrigerated colostrum to be stored before use has been reduced from 48hrs to 24hrs from time of harvest. This is to prevent feeding colostrum that has undesirable levels of bacteria.
- To heat-treat colostrum, pasteurize it at 140 degrees F for 60 minutes. For heat-treated colostrum, the target for Standard Plate Count (SPC) is set at <20,000 CFU/mL and Coliforms is set at <100 CFU/mL.
- Monthly screening for quality colostrum was suggested by the DCHA to maintain colostrum quality and overall health of calves.
- With the introduction of commercial colostrum replacer, the DCHA has acknowledged this product as a viable substitute when quality maternal colostrum is not available. Colostrum replacer should have no less that 300g IgG.
- A chart was developed going into detail about targeted passive immunity levels in calves at 2-7 days of age. Serum IgG concentration, equivalent total proteins, equivalent Brix %, and the percentage of calves that should have these results were included in this chart.
- The bedded resting area per animal space requirement was updated, matching the total area per animal space requirement that was listed in the 2016 edition.
- Although no changes were listed in the area of transportation, it can be advantageous to use a ramp when loading calves. This could reduce the risk of injury from jumping in and out of the trailer and falling. Furthermore, use of a ramp could reduce improper handling of young calves by making it easier to lift the calves, walk onto the trailer, and place calves in the trailer.
The foundation to a healthy, productive, well-rounded herd starts with the heifer program. By providing producers with updated information that reflects the evolving understanding of optimal heifer management, the DCHA Gold Standards are a prime resource for benchmarking and goal-setting for your heifer program. If you would like help evaluating your heifer program and considering changes, contact Cora Okkema or your regional dairy educator.