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Concentrated feed supply in practice: how far can you go?

Providing high concentrations of calf milk replacer is a must for dairy farmer Sietze Henk Haytema. “Proper and frequent feeding in the first few months is crucial to further development. What you miss in the first phase, you can never recover!” How does he determine the right concentrations and volumes?

 In a farm coverage of April 2012 – published on this website – Sietze Henk Haytema explains how he approaches calf rearing. For many years he has been an enthusiastic promoter of ‘thick’ feeding during rearing. “And that's not going to change”, he said with conviction. “The first 3 to 4 months are crucial for development. So don't miss the chance.”

Strong start in group accommodation

The dairy farmer in Kouden, the Netherlands, is constantly looking for the optimum concentration of milk replacer and number of litres per day. Compared to one year ago, he has implemented a number of changes. The calves stay in a single box from birth up to 3 weeks. That used to be 2 weeks. During this period they are given 4 litres of Sprayfo calf milk replacer a day with high concentrations of 200 to 250 grams per litre. And the results are great, says Haytema: “We rear some 100 calves a year. You're always running the risk of infections from the feeding machine. The calves are now much stronger and even healthier when they move to the group accommodation and are therefore less susceptible to infection. From the moment that they transfer to the drinking machine, I no longer have any trouble. And that makes things much easier”

More than 1 kilos of calf milk replacer per day

The thickness of the milk replacer in the feeding machine has been increased over the last few years from 165 to 180 grams per litre. On the other hand, the number of litres per calf per day has been reduced from 7 to 6. On balance then the volume of milk replacer has remained roughly the same. “Providing slightly thicker feed is easier and reduces the risk of diarrhoea”, according to Haytema.

A joy to watch

“I do not take any irresponsibly high risks but I do like to push the boundaries of what the calves can take on a daily basis”, the dairy farmer told us. “It pays off to search for the best possible rearing process. We've always had well-developed animals here, with virtually not a single unsuccessful heifer. There is strength in those calves and the heifers also clearly have more potential. It is a joy to watch!”