Calf Rearing Advice with Maeve Regan
New born calves are unique in that they are born with no immunity. The primary source of immunity for this is from the dam in the form of colostrum.
For this reason, it is important to get as much high quality colostrum into the calf as possible as soon as possible.
Testing Colostrum Quality
- To test for colostrum quality, a Brix refractometer can be used.
- high quality once it is greater than 50mg/ml of Immunoglobulin content
Clean colostrum prevents disease transfer within the herd, however, a high level of bacteria and dirt contamination within colostrum can also negatively affects absorption of immunoglobulins in calves.
New Born Calves
When new calves hit the ground, the 3-2-1 rule should be adhered to:
- Calf should receive 3L (or at least 5/6% of birth weight)
- Within the first 2 hours of life
- From the dams 1st milking.
This process should be repeated after 8 hours because the Immunoglobulin content will be halved after the first milking.
At least 65 to 70% of calves that are presented to Vet Labs, post-mortem, have received inadequate levels of colostrum at birth. It is extremely important to get enough into the calf quickly that is of high enough quality.
Using Milk Replacer
The two main advantages of using calf milk replacer on farm are;
- The consistency it brings to a calf’s diet
- Reduction in disease transfer within the herd
High quality calf milk replacer protein should be derived from dairy products such as whey or skimmed powder as opposed to plant derived products. This is due to dairy products being more readily available to the calf to use.
Milk replacer should be mixed at a rate of 12.5% of milk solids which is the equivalent of high quality whole milk.
It should also always be mixed on farm using clean warm water at 40 degrees.
GAIN calf milk replacer there are 3 products individually suited to production systems on farm:
These milk replacers range in protein contents of 20 to 25% and are suited to replacement heifers or beef systems on-farm.
Transition Feeding the Calf
In terms of calf nutrition on-farm, the transition between milk and solid feed is extremely important because this kick starts rumen development. Its development is a key driver of performance in the calf itself.
Once a calf begins to consume water or concentrates, bacterial fermentation kick starts in the rumen, this is a process that is desired as quickly as possible.
Therefore concentrates should be offered to calves from 3 days of age.
- GAIN start a calf is an 18% protein cooked ration , which is highly palatable and offered to calves from 3 days of age until consuming 250g/head/day
- Following on from this a calf can be moved onto an 18% GAIN calf crunch or gain gold grain.
- Gold grain is a unique product to the GAIN range as it combines elements from a coarse ration and a nut form in pellets.
Forage is an often forgotten about element in rumen development. New research from AFBI highlights that the provision of a chopped fibre to young calves pre-weaning increased total dry matter intake and post-weaning weights.
First Published 12 February 2019