Calf nutrition - building block for future performance
Monday, April 02, 2012
Posted by: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association
This week's tip is brought to you by the beef checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance program.
The amount and quality of colostrum a calf receives within the first hours of life is the single most important management factor affecting the animal's well-being, growth, performance and profitability for the first six months of life and beyond.
Aside from being the only way to provide calves with necessary antibodies for immunity, colostrum also provides the necessary key vitamins A, D, and E, which help develop the immune system and set the stage for growth. Colostrum also contains antioxidants, a high fat content, white blood cells and essential amino acids - that are all very important to the initial health and growth of the calf.
Here are some tips for calf nutrition from birth to weaning:
- For colostrum, current best management practice is to feed two to preferably four quarts of colostrum within the first 1 to 2 hours of life, followed by two more feedings within the first 18 hours. The higher amount - four quarts - ensures that enough grams of antibodies are received by the majority of calves when the quality of the colostrum is unknown or mediocre.
- Reserve "first-milking" colostrum for first feedings of newborns as the concentrations of vitamins, nutrients and antibodies will be highest.
- Calves should be eating starter grain three weeks before weaning. That's about how long it takes for the starter grain to develop the rumen to where the calf is able to meet its nutritional requirements from dry feed.
- Calves should be eating 2 to 2.5 quarts (or pounds) of starter grain daily before weaning.
- During adverse weather conditions, calves will require increased nutrition.
Monitoring and supplying proper nutrition is essential in determining how the calves will grow, develop and perform later. For more information on calf nutrition visit the National Dairy Beef Quality Assurance manual, and for more details on colostrum management visit Gold Standards I.
DCHA's Gold Standards I Colostrum & Nutrition recommendations
A. First feeding
Colostrum equaling 10% of body weight should be fed in the first 2 hours of life. [For example, a 90-lb. calf should receive 4 quarts of colostrum.]
B. Colostrum quality
Colostrum should be free of blood, debris and mastitis
Colostrum should be disease-free
Test for quality with a colostrum tester or IgG test
Target bacteria count (also known as standard plate count) is <100,000 CFU/mL
Target immunity level of animals at 2 to 7 days of age is:
a. blood serum total protein of >5.2 g/dL for maternal-source-colostrum-fed calves; or
b. serum IgG of >10.0 g/L
A. Structure your nutrition program to achieve health and growth standards defined in II and III, and monitor performance regularly. Consult your veterinarian and nutritionist routinely.
B. Clean water and starter grain should be offered to calves with continuous availability by 3 days of age, and refreshed or replenished daily.
Monitoring and supplying proper nutrition is essential in determining how the calves will grow, develop and perform later. For more information on calf nutrition visit the National Dairy Beef Quality Assurance manual, and for more details on colostrum management visit, Gold Standards I.