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    Maximise the growth potential of every calf

Growth in the first 2 weeks is crucial for calf rearing

Practical experience and research gives ever greater understanding of the growth potential of young calves. Potential that turns out to be very high, though growth differentials are enormous per farm in the initial weeks. This is certainly worth attention, as growth in the first two weeks is essential for further development of each calf. This article explains the minimum volumes you should feed.

Sprayfo closely monitors the impact of nutrition in the first eight weeks on the growth of calves before and after weaning. We gather data from dairy farms and conduct our own research in collaboration with Schothorst Feed Research in Lelystad, the LFA MV research institute in Dummerstorf (Germany) and the Nutreco Calf Research Centre.

Calves often take too long to regain birth weight

In practice, we see great differences in the volume of calf milk replacer fed to calves in the first two weeks in particular. The volumes vary from less than 6 kilos to more than 10 kilos. We also see great differences in the dosage: from less than 120 grams to 160 grams per litre.

Calves are generally switched to calf milk replacer from day 4. They are fed 2 times 2 litres per day in the first week and 2 times 2.5 litres in the second week. At a normal concentration of 125 grams per litre, these calves are fed 7 kg of milk replacer. This translates as slightly more than 500 grams per day, which they roughly need as a maintenance level. Daily growth will therefore be very limited; around 100-150 grams per day. Besides this slow growth, these calves have very little immunity, leaving them open to bacteria and viruses.   

 

Dairy farmers are too conservative in feeding calves

We can therefore conclude that many dairy farmers are too conservative in feeding their calves in the first 2 weeks. By conservative, we mean: less than 8 kg of powder in the first 2 weeks. At that rate, calves grow too slowly and will take 7 to 10 days to regain their birth weight.  That is too long, as the calves lag behind in development and are unnecessarily prone to illness. It is essential to prevent that, as every case of illness costs growth. In this important phase, each growth stop is at the expense of udder development, while also slowing the development of the digestive and immune system.

Fourth stomach is extremely elastic

This feeding method has been advised for many years, on the assumption that the fourth stomach is very small; only holding 2 litres. However, recent research has proven the fourth stomach to be very elastic, especially if 3-litre feeds are given per meal directly with and after the colostrum. This stretches the fourth stomach and results in problem-free digestion. Consequently, the calf is more able to effectively digest higher feed intakes in a later stage of development. In other words; LifeStart feeding starts with an active approach from day 1.

Advice for first 14 days

The LifeStart Sprayfo advice is as follows:

  • Feed 3.8 litres of controlled quality colostrum within 2 hours of calving
  • Feed a further 2 to 3 litres later the same day
  • Days 2 and 3: 2 x 3 litres colostrum
  • Days 4 to 7: 2 x 3 litres Sprayfo; concentration 1 in 6, no roughage or calf pellets, provide water
  • Days 8 to 14: 2 x 3.5 litres Sprayfo; concentration 1 in 6, no roughage, provide calf pellets and water 

According to this schedule, calves are fed 11 kg of Sprayfo from days 4-14. Either Sprayfo Excellent or Sprayfo Yellow can be used. When fed using this schedule, the calves hardly drop below their birth weight, and grow 4-8 kg. They have the energy required to strengthen their immune system, which is very visible; healthy, well-filled calves with a good coat.

Very digestible calf milk replacer is essential

Feeding sufficient high-concentrate litres at a young age requires an easily digestible product such as Sprayfo Excellent, Vitesse or Sprayfo Yellow. The good digestive properties of the powder in combination with the added antibodies make Sprayfo even better for maximisation of the animal's growth potential. Based on a targeted feeding schedule, 6 litres of milk containing 160 grams of Sprayfo per litre can be fed in the 2nd week of life. This puts young calves on a growth curve that serves them well throughout their lives.

 

TABEL INVOEGEN

 

 

From 100 to 120 kg in 3 months

Although most dairy farmers do not bother weighing their calves, we know that the average weight is just over 100 kg at three months. With our latest insights, we achieve 120 kg in 3 months. The table clearly illustrates which growth curve this requires. With the knowledge of the importance of growth and development for subsequent production capacity, it is crucial that dairy farmers take advantage of opportunities for improved growth.

Do you want to know more about the Sprayfo LifeStart program?

Interested in what Sprayfo can do for your calf rearing results? Ask the Sprayfo rearing specialist in your region!

I want to learn more about Sprayfo LifeStart!

Make the most of calf milk replacer

How to aim at the best possible growth directly after birth of your calves? Ask the Sprayfo rearing specialist in your region! 

Direct advice