British Calf Rearing – December 2021
Benefits of developing calf’s digestive system in tandem with milk feeding.
A compound known to play a major role in establishing a calf’s immune system and encouraging gut microbiota is now included in Transformula transition milk replacer. As new research emerges showing that microbes in a calf’s lower gut and rumen are key to its long term health, immunity and production efficiency, there is good reason to get feeding and weaning protocols spot on.
Calves are born with a microbial community, otherwise known as the microbiome, already in place; it can be detected months before a calf is even born. This microbiome is influenced from the very begininng, by the genetics of the dam and calf, the calving process and the feeding of colostrum and transition milk. Prebiotics in colostrum help kickstart the calf’s digestive and immune system, followed by transition milk.
Feeding a good quality milk replacer will help develop the calf’s digestive system and its microbiome because that microbiome responds to milk feeding, even to the quality of water offered. The microbiome can be made up of over 900 different types of microbes producing tens of thousands of enzymes, essential fatty acids, vitamins and hormones. It is well known that the use of waste milk containing antibiotics, or giving antibiotics in general, undermine and reduce the diversity of the microbiome, says Dr Christine Cummins, of Bonanza Calf Nutrition. “The microbes in the rumen are in balance even at two weeks of age and respond at first to increased fibre consumption but more slowly to starch intake,’’ she explains.