Cow’s milk feeding management
The Schrijver and the Klei families work together at the Broekhuizen dairy herd near Dalfsen. The farm has 240 dairy cows. The young stock is reared in another location a kilometre away. Wim Schrijver and Henk Klei run the place together with their wives. The heifer calves are moved to the rearing sheds after 14 days, where Henk’s wife Jeanet looks after the feeding and care management.
2 weeks in an individual stall
The heifer and bull calves are housed in individual stalls on the dairy farm for the first 2 weeks. After 2 weeks the bull calves are sold on and the heifer calves are transferred to the rearing sheds. The single stalls are subsequently cleaned with a high-pressure foam cleaner. Before the next calf arrives in the stall, the stall is amply strewn with straw and provided with a clean teat bucket. Henk cleans all the teat buckets every day and takes the teat completely apart every 2 weeks and before the arrival of a new calf.
A maximum 2 days of feeding 'colostrum milk from the mother cow
For the first 1.5 to 2 days the calf is given the mother cow’s colostrum. 'Colostrum milk' from another cow may be given after that. It is standard practice to give the calves an injection of iron and vitamin B12 on day one. In addition, Sprayfo Vimix is added to the milk. All this is to optimise the health, resistance and growth of the young calves.
Feeding regime 1 to 6
The heifer calves switch to Sprayfo Excellent on the fourth day. They start with 2.5 litres twice a day in a 1:6 solution (160 grams Sprayfo per litre of water). The bull calves are given 14 days of 'colostrum milk', also 2.5 litres twice a day. When the calves are in the individual stalls they are not fed any concentrate or roughage. We give them water of course, particularly when it gets a bit warmer outside. This is the best way to feed calves 'colostrum milk' from the first 3 days. Schrijver never feeds calves mastitis or penicillin milk. He appreciates that their current and future health is too important for that.
How much feed can a calf take?
Sitting round the coffee table we discuss how much a calf can take as regards feed. Henk is convinced that the ‘old’ feeding schedule, with two times 1.5 litres per day and a 1:7 solution was not enough. ‘In that case the calf has enough to survive but not enough to grow.' The current regime has worked well but the question remains what else is possible.
"Everything you do depends on how you handle the first few days", says Eile van der Gaast from Sprayfo. He points to recent research which has shown that the abomasum of calves stretches from 2.5 litres to 4 litres capacity if calves are put on a higher milk regime from day one. Van der Gaast: "There are farms in East Germany that feed 4 litres twice a day."
Both dairy farmers agree that adopting this kind of volume straight away would be too big a step. But Henk is going to feed the bull calves two times 3 litres per day from now on. He might increase this if the results are satisfactory.
More growth, better health
Eile sets out the possibilities this offers. Bull calves are usually fed 4 to 5 litres per day during the first 14 days. Every litre per day produces 2 kg of growth. If you feed 2 additional litres per day, then you will also gain 4 kg of growth. ‘This not only makes the calf dealer happy, but also the veal farmer. He gets heavier and therefore healthier calves which are less susceptible to disease.’