Feed your calves healthy with transition milk replacer
A dairy farming family whose calf rearing system was challenged by cryptosporidium says focusing on diet in the two weeks following birth is playing an important part in calf health.
Cryptosporidium had been an ongoing problem at Trekillick Farms, which runs a herd of 300 pedigree Jerseys at Bodmin. In conjunction with other measures, the farmers – Colin and Pauline Dyer and their son Mike – reviewed their feeding system and introduced Transformula, a product formulated to replace transition milk, the milk which cows produce after colostrum.
They trialled the product, pitching it against two other feeding systems. Under their previous system, the Dyers fed calves four litres of colostrum which scored 25% or higher within six hours of birth followed by two litres of colostrum and transition milk twice a day until day five, after which they received 400g of a high protein whey/vegetable-based powder twice a day until day 56.
Dr Christine Cummins of Bonanza Calf Nutrition, said she has concerns about feeding high levels of crude protein. “This can predispose calves to scour as much of the crude protein is not digested in the young calf,’’ she said.
The Dyers changed their system, trialling feeding systems involving three groups of five August-born calves with an average birth weight of 23.5kg.
- Group 1 was treated with anti-scour agents for seven days, received transition milk for the first four days and moved to a high protein powder from day five
- Group 2 received 600g/day of Transformula from day 5 to day 12
- Group 3 received 600g/day of Transformula from day 5 to day 19
Although the trial was not a scientific one, calves were weighed weekly with those in group 3 achieving the highest daily liveweight gain (dlwg) at 0.57kg/day from 0-30 days, compared to 0.49kg for group 1 and 0.54kg for group 2. Dlwg from 30-56 days was highest in group 2, at 0.64kg/day, followed by group 3 at 0.62kg and group 1 at 0.58kg.
Pauline, who is in charge of the calf rearing, plans to continue feeding Transformula. “It’s a feed which the calves like which makes it much easier,’’ she said.
Cost was also a positive. Feeding Transformula for seven days is a net cost of £4.50/calf or £9 for 14 days. Calves are now fed 600g/day of a concentrated calf milk called Milky Way to allow calves consume the same energy and milk protein as before but less lactose.
Although the Trekillick calves are now having 200g/day less powder and less crude protein, coats and dung are better with no apparent effect on performance.