Squeeze technique for dummy-calves

Mon 23rd Nov, 2020 Karin von Deylen Content Type: Research Innovation

https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/find-connect/projects/bovine-beef-innovation-network-europe 

 Author: G. Stilwell

Calves born showing the typical behaviour of dummy calves - indifference to environmental stimuli, lack of affinity for the dam, failure to find the udder, refuse to suck even when helped by putting the teat in its mouth, aimless wandering or motionless standing – die or need costly and prolonged care for obvious reasons. In dummy foals the “Madigan squeeze technique” has been used for years with apparent success.

Photo: George Stilwell

 

Physical compression of the chest helps newborn foals with neonatal maladjustment syndrome. The compression induces a slow wave sleep and hormone changes similar to what occurs during delivery when there is a neonatal transition from neuroinhibition to neuroactivation.
This technique has now also be used in calves. Calves are subjected to the squeezing technique for 20 minutes. A soft cotton rope, approximately 3 cm wide, is passed around the calves’ chest and abdomen. The calves are then forced to lie down while the loop around the chest is tightened. After a short struggled, easily controlled by one person on the head, calves go into a deep sleep that is manifested by closed eyes, no limb movement, slow breathing and bradycardia. Noise, wind or human presence apparently did not disturb these calves that usually do not move for the entire 20 minutes of the experiment. The calves are then awaken and the rope removed. They get up after a few seconds and walked towards the dam to suckle. They then behave like a normal new-born animal.

The Madigan squeeze technique seems to be beneficial for maladjusted calves, when there is no apparent reason (e.g. trauma, acidosis, disease) for extreme dullness. It can be a chance to reduce calf mortality and/or the need for after birth care.
So far the technique has been used on foals for long but it is a completely new approach for calves. It has been tested on calves by George Stilwell and several practitioners.
The Madigan squeeze technique might be a way to safe calves showing maladjustment syndrome with very small investment in time or money. However, Success is still small as the technique has not been used wisely and a thorough clinical examination should precede the use of the technique. During the BovINE project two demonstration videos have produced about the technique. The first one shows the sucessful use of the squeeze, 
click here. The second one descibes the attachement of the rope (in German), click here.

Video by Martha d’Andrade & George Stilwell

 Calves showing maladjustment syndrome can be saved with very small investment in time or money.


Links:

Demonstration in Ireland (IFA)

Demonstration in Portugal (FMV)

Demonstration in Germany (FLI)

Webinar from Portugal (FMV)

Cost-Benefit-Analysis

 

Literature:

Stilwell, G. et al. (2019): Potential benefit of a thoracic squeeze technique in two newborn calves delivered by caesarean section. New Zeland Veterinary Journal 68, 65-68. 


Impact: 

  • Animal health and welfare: This technique reduces the time, treatment cost and handling normaly involved in management of calves with Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NMS). It also allows to save calves that would not be able to follow the dam and would only be detected (in beef herds) when severely debilitated or dead. Nevertheless, this technique should be performed only by a veterinarian as a complete clinical examination should always precedd the squeeze, Using the squeeze on animals with conditions other than NMS is dangerous as it delays adequate treatment and can lead to pain, lesions, trauma and death.
  • Production efficiency and meat quality: labour time decreases because the care for dummy claves reduces to a minimum time (time for squeeze); no extra time for giving colostrum etc.

 

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Kees de Roest
56 Posts
Thu 18th Nov, 2021

Costs and benefits of the squeeze technique for dummy calves

Typically new born calves affected by Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NMS) show indifference to external stimuli, fail to find the udder, refuse to suck milk, wander aimless or stand motionless. These dummy calves die or need costly and prolonged care.

The “Madigan Squeeze Technique” helps dummy calves to resume a normal behaviour. It consists in a physical compression of the animal chest with a soft cotton rope. Calves are then forced to lie down and induced into a deep sleep by tightening the loop around the chest. After around 20 minutes they are awaken and the rope removed.

It’s a technique originally used on foals but it was proved to be successful in reducing mortality by those practitioners who use it also on new born dummy calves. 

Simulation of the cost and benefits of the adoption of the Madigane Squeeze Technique has been carried out considering the production costs of the cow calf typical farms from Portugal, France and Ireland.

The cost of using the Madigane Squeeze Technique is assumed to be equal to the benefits in terms of less labour time and care that alternatively a calf with Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome would require. Actually, this technique reduces time, treatment and handling cost involved in the management of calves with NMS. Nevertheless, it should be performed only by a veterinarian as a complete clinical examination should always precede the performance of this practice. It is thus reasonable to assume that the cost of the veterinarian examination and the time required to use the Madigan Squeeze Technique match to the cost of traditional treatment of a dummy calf ( bottle feeding, locking the cow to be able to take the calf near the udder etc.).

According to the experience of the squeeze technique practitioners overall around 5% of new born calves in cow calf farm would benefit from the squeezing technique both because affected by severe NMS or showing less severe symptoms (sleepy and indolent calves). Benefit would result in a reduction of mortality rate first of all because it would allow to save calves not able to follow the dam and that would be detected in beef herds only when severely debilitated or dead. It would also reduce most of the deaths indirectly related with NMS, because sleepy and indolent calves are more likely not to drink colostrum on time and to drink less milk during the first days of their life, becoming more susceptible to other diseases.

The following table show the costs and benefits of this technique by comparing the before and after implementation.

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PORTUGAL – Cow calf farm 250 suckler cows

Cow calf farm productivity before and after

 

PT 250

Suckler cows (n.)

250 

Breed

Limousine crosses

Replacement rate

12%

Cows mortality

2%

Weaning weight* (kg)

245

Breeding productivity

Before

Squeeze tech.

Calves mortality

3,0%

1,5%

Weaned calves per year (n.)

207

210

Weaned calves per cow/year (n.)

0,83

0,84

Weaner sold per cow per year (n.)

0,68

0,70

Category of animals sold

Before

Squeeze tech.

Calves going to finishing (n.)

171

174

Cull animals (n.)

31

31

Total animal sold (n.)

202

205

Live weight sold per year

Before

Squeeze tech.

Calves going to finishing (ton lw)

42,45

43,23

Cull animals (ton l.w.)

13,85

13,85

Total weight sold (ton LW)

56,30

57,08

Total weight sold per cow (kg lw)

225

228

*Average male and female weaning weight

 

Costs per100 kg lw. sold before and after

 

Before

Squeeze tech.

Non factor costs

190,8

188,1

Animal purchase

6,2

6,1

Feed*

51,8

51,1

Machinery (mainten., depr, contractor.)

58,3

57,5

Fuel and energy

22,8

22,5

Buildings (mainten. and depr.)

7,9

7,8

Vet. and medecine

12,0

11,8

Insurances and taxes

6,2

6,1

Other inputs

25,5

25,2

Labour cost

59,1

58,3

Land cost

128,6

126,8

Capital cost

18,6

18,4

Total cost

397,0

391,6

*Feed cost includes purchase feed, fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, land improvement


 

 

PORTUGAL – Cow calf farm 625 suckler cows

Cow calf farm productivity before and after

 

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