Successful calf rearing is fundamentally based around some key management practices.
Step 1: Colostrum – the fuel of life
Set clear colostrum targets to get calves off to the best start in life:
Quality: IgG levels should be >50g/L- Test regularly with a refractometer
Quantity:– Feed 2-3 litres within 2 hours of birth and 4-6 litres within the first 24 hours
Quickly: Feed within 6-8 hours following birth to ensure highest level of antibody absorption
Quietly: Minimise stress to ensure efficient antibody absorption
Ensure good hygiene to prevent contamination during collection, transfer or feeding.
Step 2: Pre-weaning – doubling birth weight by 60 days of age
A good feeding routine from birth to weaning will be fundamental to achieving targets for growth, health and performance. Introducing a quality calf milk replacer (CMR) like Davidsons Ultimate CMR maintains growth rates, providing concentrations and quantities are correct.
Encouraging rumen development immediately after the colostrum phase is vital if growth rates are going to be maintained, which is why NuStart is included as standard in Ultimate CMR. A high- quality calf starter and fresh water will encourage intakes, providing milk replacer rates are not exceeded resulting in lower starter feed intakes. Calves should be eating 1.5-2kg per day of starter feed by weaning. Supported with good management and a healthy environment, these calves should be on course to meet their 90- day growth target. However research shows feeding higher quantities of CMR reduces starter feed intake and results in a growth check when weaned.
Step 3: Post-weaning – avoiding the slump in growth
All calves should be at least 15% of mature body weight at 90 days. The reason for looking at 90 days is that any post-weaning checks in growth will have an impact on achieving the target growth rate.