CALF STARTER FEEDS
At Chestnutt’s we aim to provide calves with the best possible start through our specially formulated calf starter rations which come in the form of palatable coarse feeds and pellets. We also offer a range of calf milk replacers.
Calf rearing is a job that’s often overlooked and receives much less attention than necessary. It is important to note that on both dairy and beef farms, calf health at the beginning of life will be instrumental in determining the lifetime productivity of the animal.
Chestnutt Animal Feeds are dedicated to providing a customer service which assists farmers in maximising animal performance and also profitability as a result. However, aiming to meet performance targets from birth will also be key as any damage done in the first few weeks can rarely be undone.
Important Areas To Consider:
- Rumen Development
Colostrum plays a vital part in developing immunity as it can contain around 60 times the level of antibodies found in normal milk. Therefore, the strength of the calf’s immune system throughout the rearing period is largely influenced by the quality and quantity of colostrum present in its first feed.
Tips for Colostrum
- Due to the large variations in colostrum quality, it is recommended to test all colostrum with a Colostrometer.
- Freeze good colostrum for later use – it is not sufficient to store it in a fridge.
- Feed as soon as possible after birth (at least within 6 hours) preferably with a teat, but tube if necessary.
- The first feed of colostrum should be equal to 10% of the calf’s bodyweight.
- Colostrum must be at a temperature of 39⁰C
- Carefully clean all colostrum feeding equipment – Contaminated colostrum defeats the purpose of feeding it!
REMEMBER – it’s a race between bacteria in the environment and the antibodies in colostrum. The thicker the colostrum, the better!
After colostrum feeding is finished, milk feeding begins. Health status throughout this stage will strongly influence performance throughout the lifetime of the animal, therefore effective management is crucial.
A young calf is a non-ruminant, therefore, milk digestion occurs entirely in the abomasum and as a result, consistency is fundamental in minimising the risk of digestive upsets.
Milk should always be fed at a temperature of 37⁰C to 41⁰C with changes onto calf milk replacer done as gradually as possible.
Milk replacer that is:
- Too hot – This will cause vitamins to become inactive, as well as reduced digestibility of fat and protein.
- Too cold – Milk is unlikely to dissolve properly causing poorer digestion and closure of the oesophageal groove may no longer happen; hence the calf is at a greater risk of digestive upsets.
As the animal gets older, it obtains most of its energy from fermenting forages and concentrates in the rumen. However, at birth, a calf’s rumen is non-functional as a microbial population does not develop until it begins ingesting solid feed.
At two weeks of age, the rumen begins to expand; therefore it is important to promote good rumen development in the following ways:
- Ensure a constant supply of clean, fresh water from four days old as a functional rumen requires water (the water present in milk bypasses the rumen).
- A calf-starter concentrate should be provided from the first week of life and continue for the first few months as this will help to stimulate rumen development.
- Clean, fresh hay or straw should be present at all times as this stimulates chewing of the cud, which promotes rumen development.
REMEMBER – Greater development of the rumen papillae and its microbial population allows for a greater capacity of energy absorption.
Weaning should only take place when the rumen is fully developed and this should be when the calf is consuming at least 1kg of concentrate per day for three consecutive days. It should be a gradual process in order to minimise stress.
The environment in which a young calf is placed will have a strong influence on the disease challenges that it faces.
- Provide clean, dry bedding ALL of the time. Remember calves spend 70-80% of their time lying down.
- Ensure all calf houses are well ventilated but they must also be draught free.
- Calving pens must be kept as clean and thoroughly disinfected as possible.
- Where possible, calf housing should have a period of rest after being washed out thoroughly.