The gut MicroBiome is the key to overall health and wellness. In the last decade, better feed efficiency, optimal growth and higher future milk production have been the sought-after goals in calf nutrition. 50% of lifetime height gain and 25% of lifetime weight gain occurs in the first six months of a calf’s life. When calves are eating and growing well, we optimize their future potential. The calf’s gastrointestinal tract (G-Tract) houses a diverse microbial community that can significantly affect both the lifetime and evolutionary success of the calf. The discovery of the gut MicroBiome’s effect on calf health has changed how scientists understand disease, creating huge interest in finding ways to modulate the calf’s MicroBiome. The stressful weaning transition has previously been linked with depressions in growth and intake. The age at which an animal is weaned can lessen these effects, possibly a result of greater ruminal and intestinal maturation at 8 weeks, compared to 6 weeks of age.
Welcome to MicroBiome Engineering- the manipulation and enrichment of select Microbial Communities.
Preparation in the milk-fed phase helps calves transition through weaning.
Calves fed a higher plane of nutrition, improves their productivity and equips them to transition more effectively post-weaning.
Well developed calves have well developed rumens with the capacity to handle a Dry Feed.
Starter intake is a good indication of when the calf is ready to wean.
Calves overeating are trying to compensate for lack of nutrition in the milk diet.
Sweet Spot: 3 lb. or 1350 g of starter feed for three consecutive days.
Post Weaning and MicroBiome Development
Underdeveloped calves fall behind.
Well grown calves thrive.
Rumen volume continues to expand- we now need to focus on developing rumen papillae.
Papillae increase the surface area of the rumen to improve assimilation of nutrients.
Starch increases rumen fermentation which produce Volatile Fatty Acids, which in turn encourages papillae growth.
Precision Feeding Dairy Heifers
Around 12 weeks old heifers should be eating 10 lb. or 4.5 Kg starter/day.
Switch to a grower feed and incorporate high-quality hay to complete rumen development in a cost efficient way.
Grower feeds are less nutrient dense than starter yet maintain growth and papillae development.
Rumen development ends around 5 months or 450-500/lb. / 200-225 Kg.
We can now introduce a TMR. Rumen should have a 40 gallon/150 liter capacity.