A 500-cow dairy herd in Wisconsin recently lost 85 calves over four months, reminding us how dangers can arise from unlikP
ely sources. In this case, the culprit was salt.
Sometime before the farm’s rash of deaths, sodium hypochlorite — in what turned out to be toxic amounts — was added to the farm’s well to boost water quality. The water was used to mix milk replacer — more being fed to calves that had gotten sick. An electrolyte supplement containing sodium pushed salt levels even higher. And to top things off, these young calves didn’t yet have free access to fresh water.
If you raise calves, monitor sodium levels in water used to mix formulas and supplements, and don’t use softened water. What’s more, allow calves as young as one week old ready access to fresh water. And always consult your nutritionist or veterinarian before modifying your herd’s rations.