A good and regular feed supply prevents your calves from having health problems. It also gives the animals the chance of optimal growth. Milk supply every 12 hours is best for your calves. During a cold winter we advise you to feed the calves three times a day at regular intervals, using a slightly higher concentration of milk powder (approx. 10%). Unlimited fresh roughage and/or concentrates should also be provided.
Providing quality Colostrum
Contamination from viruses and bacteria often takes place in the first few hours after birth so if the calf is taken away from its mother immediately after birth the calving pen can be a dangerous place.
It is important for the calf to drink a minimum of 2 litres of colostrum as soon as possible after he is born to make sure he gets as many of the antibodies as possible contained in the colostrum. The colostrum must be provided at a temperature of 40°C. This exact temperature will stimulate the reflexes of the calf’s oesophageal slot which makes sure the colostrum can pass through the rumen. It will not harm the calf if he receives more colostrum, say 3-4 litres, and in fact it could well have a positive effect on the health of the calf. Less colostrum will have a negative effect. It is advisable to supply further colostrum six hours after providing the first dose of colostrum. The inclusion of antibodies from the colostrum mostly takes place during the first 12 hours of a calf’s life. After that the inclusion of antibodies in the intestine will be less. The quality of colostrum may vary enormously. Therefore we advise you to check it using the colostrum meter. The colostrum meter measures the density of the colostrum which tells you a lot about the amount of antibodies in the colostrum. Heat the colostrum in hot water but make sure it never rises above 50°C.
After the colostrum period
From the 3rd day you can start providing the calf with artificial milk. There are various kinds available. To choose the right one consider your objective and compare it with the properties of the artificial milk that matches your goal.
It is very important that the calf has unlimited access to good and tasty concentrated feed to stimulate the development of the rumen. Muesli Start Mix and Roughage chunks contain mostly high protein nutrients which are easy to digest. Another possibility is to provide the calves with hay or alfalfa.
From the moment your calves eat concentrated feed it is necessary to provide fresh and clean water. Starting from the 3rd week the rumen will begin to work harder and the calves will be able to eat more concentrated feed. Unlimited provision of concentrated feed helps the rumen to stay healthy and develop optimally.
During the first 2 days provide the calf with colostrum from its own mother (if the quality is good). After that you can switch to artificial milk. Below you will find a suggested milk feeding plan.
Feeding plan for rearing your calf
Rearing period (depends on the business situation) Milk Concentrates
8 weeks 10 weeks 12 weeks 2 times a day Unlimited
04 - 08 days 04 - 10 days 04 - 12 days 2.0 litres Muesli Start Mix
09 - 16 days 11 - 20 days 13 - 23 days 2.5 litres Roughage chunks
17 - 42 days 21 - 50 days 24 - 55 days 3.0 litres Roughage chunks
43 - 46 days 51 - 60 days 56 - 64 days 2.5 litres Roughage chunks
47 - 51 days 61 - 66 days 65 - 75 days 2.0 litres Roughage chunks
52 - 56 days 67 - 70 days 76 - 84 days 1.5 litres Roughage chunks
From day 10 we recommend you also provide fresh water to drink.
When you stop providing milk to the calves it is very important to feed them as regularly as possible with the chunks they are used to. For this reason we have developed Follow Up – a chunk just like the Roughage chunk, only especially for calves aged from 3 to 6 months. After you stop feeding them milk you should feed them Roughage chunks for 1 week. After this week you can change to Follow Up. You can provide Follow Up indefinitely together with coarse hay or barley straw. When the calves have become used to this change of feed (usually after approx. 7 days) you can move them to another shed. These are often grids with resting boxes. The calves can eat unlimited chunks and at the age of 6 months they will be big and strong enough to switch to a mixed cow ration. It won’t be necessary to feed your young cows with concentrates anymore. Make sure your calves don’t gain too much fat because this will prevent them from developing a good height, a good development of the rumen and an easy gestation.
For more information you can contact Alpuro Breeding.