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Dairy Calf Health and Barn Fogging Research, On-Farm Events


The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has awarded a grant to Cornell Cooperative Extension Dairy Specialists Lindsay Ferlito and Casey Havekes to assess and troubleshoot ventilation systems and their impact on the health of pre-weaned calves on farms in northern New York in 2021. The researchers will demonstrate barn fogging, a process that makes air flow visible, as part of calf barn ventilation educational presentations on regional farms on July 27 in North Lawrence and July 28 in Carthage. Registration is free, but space is limited. Contact 607-592-0290 or lc636@cornell.edu for details.

This new research in 2021 builds on a series of dairy calf health assessment projects previously funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP):

  • an observational baseline study evaluating 437 pre-weaned calves on 29 dairy farms in the region in 2015 indicated a slightly higher rate or respiratory illness than the national average. Research has shown ventilation to be one of the critical factors influencing calf respiratory health;
  • an NNYADP-funded followup study with 2,408 pre-weaned calves in 2016-2017 highlighted how management practice changes and environmental factors impact calf health on a seasonal basis;
  • in 2017-2018, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Quality Milk Production Services created the “Calf Health Risk Assessment Tool for Northern New York Dairy Farms” to support development of farm-specific best management practices planning to address key areas of calf health management, particularly during periods of cold winter temperatures. Every farm participating in that project made management practice adjustments as a result of the research;
  • the results of the NNYADP calf health project in 2019 showed calfhood illnesses occurring most frequently at 8 to 31 days of age, with neonatal diarrhea, or scours, as the primary concern, and at 61 to 120 days of age with pneumonia as the primary distress. Participating farms developed or enhance their protocols for preventing and treating calfhood illness; and
  • a followup study in 2020 identified the pathogenic causes of dairy calf neonatal diarrhea and the benefit of supportive recovery care with electrolytes and plentiful water access.

Throughout this NNYADP-funded research series, project leaders have been alert to the role of ventilation, housing, and management in reducing the rate of respiratory illness in calves.

Ferlito notes, “Our work in 2021 involves barn fogging and capturing video to analyze the ventilation efficiency in each barn and to identify any necessary changes to enhance calf health.”

The research team, which includes Cornell University PRO-DAIRY personnel, will deploy data loggers inside and outside barns. Data collection will include calf-level air speed and ammonia concentrations in bedding, monthly calf health scoring and weight gain, and bedding nesting score. Each participating farm’s calf management reporting and treatment protocols will be assessed. Final project results will be share via workshops and posted on the NNYADP website. The results of past calf health projects are posted there now.

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

 

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