Larger and heavier calves through thicker feed
For the last year, dairy farmer Luit Veenhuizen has been consciously feeding his calves a higher dose of 160 grams of Sprayfo per litre of water (1:6). “Thicker feed makes a clear difference. I can see more calf – the animals are larger and more robust.”
Luit Veenhuizen from Musselkanaal runs a partnership with his parents Fekke and Antje. Some years ago, the mixed farm converted entirely to dairy farming. In 2008, a new cow shed was built with room for 130 dairy cows. The target is to grow to 150 dairy cows by accommodating the dry cows in a separate facility.
High doses, small portions
The youngest calves are accommodated in the old farm buildings. They are given mother's milk for the first three days, with Sprayfo thereafter. Veenhuizen has been consciously giving ‘thicker’ feed for the last year. ‘I read that Sprayfo had done research into this and thought I'd try it. The transition to milk replacer is done in smaller portions, but with a higher dose. This reduces the risk of giving the calf too much milk and getting digestive problems. Calves who could use a little extra get an extra portion.’
Over to the group stall within a week
The heifer calves get milk replacer for at least two days in a calving box and are then transferred to the group stall with a drinking machine. They are often then not quite a week old, but according to Veenhuizen that is not a problem. ‘The condition is that they drink the milk replacer. If that's the case, then the drinking machine is not a problem for them. In the group stall they are more active and get more exercise, and the benefit of a drinking machine is that they get milk in multiple small portions. Together with dosing of 1:6 (160 grams Sprayfo per litre of water) that really works well’, he says, satisfied.
Strict reduction schedule
The benefit of a drinking machine is not only supplying multiple smaller portions, but also the option of selecting from various feed schedules. This schedule is then followed strictly to reduce milk replacer. ‘Calves do not receive individual treatment. I would rather feed all the calves Sprayfo for one week longer. That saves me an enormous amount of work after weaning. What's more, I leave the calves in the group for at least five weeks after weaning so they do not need to get used to a different environment. If you transfer them too fast to the other stall with the larger calves, they can sometimes go through a dip in growth.’
The higher dosing was no accident. ‘The condition of the cows required attention. Which is why we started crossing them with other stock, such as Fleckvieh, and we started feeding them differently. But it all starts in the calf rearing pen. We have been feeding the calves for a year with a higher dose and I can see a clear difference. I can see more calf – the animals are larger and more robust.’
It is still a little early to detect a clear picture of the effects on milk production, but he is full of confidence about this too. ‘We are now feeding some powdered milk. But if that gives me a cow that performs better and more readily for less effort, then that's a small price to pay. Not to mention how much more I'm enjoying my work.’