Nutrition sets up life time performance. Scours and respiratory disease are the leading cause of death. Immune focused nutrition is the solution to the problem. Inadequate caloric intake puts calves at risk of disease. Our understanding of the role of nutrition in dairy performance has evolved considerably in recent years. Limiting early calf nutrition attenuates or shuts down valuable natural growth mechanisms, that might otherwise be leveraged to achieve higher calf performance. Mechanisms of highly efficient growth are available in the first weeks of life that are no longer available later. By meeting the calf’s full nutritional requirements, this growth is activated. Calves should double birth weight in 56 days and grow 4 to 5 inches in height. According to research by Dr. Mike Van Amburgh (Cornell University), calves that are fed a higher plane of nutrition pre-weaning achieve more of their genetic potential. A lb/450 g of gain per day from birth to weaning resulted in 1,500 lb/680 liters more milk in the first lactation.

Conventional/Restricted Feeding of Whole Milk or Calf Milk Replacer

Dairy farmers are confronted by two very different approaches to the feeding of pre-weaned calves.

a)  For many years it was believed that the growth forfeited with restricted feeding would be compensated later.

Restricted feeding is widely acknowledged to reduce the cost of calf rearing.

Restrict the amount of milk or milk replacer fed during the first weeks of life in an effort to encourage solid feed intake and allow early weaning.

Restricted feeding has also been associated with an unacceptably high mortality rate (USDA 2003).

b)  Latest insights (Soberon et al., 2012) show that growth after 10 weeks is not a key influence on lifetime milk production.

Accelerated Feeding- Making the most of genetic potential

Calves fed more milk also grew faster and were generally healthier, requiring fewer interventions such as antibiotics than those that consumed less milk.

Accelerated growth programs seek to capitalize on the neonate’s potential for lean growth by substantially increasing the protein content as well as the total amount of DM consumed.

Accelerated growth programs show benefits such as lower morbidity and mortality and a higher first lactation milk yield (Soberon 2013).

Window of opportunity.

Rumen Development- Preparation is the Key to Winning

Calf Transition: Milk-Starter-Grower-TMR. Each stage impacts rumen development.

Rumen development is the key to feed efficiency, milk production and ultimately profitability.

A properly developed rumen must be carefully cultivated.

Calves fed less milk early in life may have more starter intake initially, but the result is gut fill versus true growth and rumen development.

Focus on Calf growth during the milk period, and starter intake will increase as their frame and rumen capacity develops.