tips for optimal calf rearing
As previous research has shown, the first 2 weeks are vital for the development of a calf. In order to ensure a maximum growth, a high quality calf rearing is of high importance. Proper calf rearing results in a lower mortality rate and a higher growth. A healthy calf has more chance of succeeding as milk cow and therefore the calf rearing costs are more than justified. Special attention should be given to the cost of housing, nutrition and time. Below you can read the fundamentals of a good calf rearing system.
What is calf rearing?
In short, calf rearing is seen as the period from the moment of birth until the 12th week. A good calf rearing process is essential in the growth of your calves as they are most vulnerable during this period. In this period of time attention should be paid to the feeding of colostrum milk, the calf housing systems and health management. When doing this correctly, calves can achieve the highest growth rates and turn into high quality dairy cows.
Colostrum as the basis
Directly after the birth of a calf, good colostrum management is essential. Calves are born without a immune system and therefore it is important that they develop antibodies (lgG). In order to achieve this, a calf needs to receive 5 to 6% of colostrum in the 6 hours. Research has shown that calves that didn’t receive a much as 4L of colostrum, were more likely to get ill. Besides, it showed that a high colostrum intake correlates with a higher milk production. Why is it so important that calves receive so much in the first few hours? After 24 hours the gut closes for antibodies, meaning they do not enter the blood stream. Next to the quantity, quality is key in calf rearing. Sometimes it is not possible to provide 4 liters of high quality colostrum. Then, you could apply colostrum from another cow from the freezer. Would you like to read more about colostrum? Then click to the following article!
Next to the quantity, quality is key in calf rearing. Sometimes it is not possible to provide 4 liters of high quality colostrum. Then, you could apply colostrum from another cow from the freezer. Would you like to read more about colostrum? Then click to the following article!
After 3 days a calf can transit from colostrum to calf milk. It is recommended to feed a concentration of 100 g/L, twice a day. Subsequently, you can increase the concentration. During the first 8 weeks a proper nutrition scheme is important in developing the udder and the milk gland. In order to ensure that calves do not stay behind and have lower probability of getting a disease, it is important that you feed sufficient in the first two weeks. In practice, this could vary from 6 to 10 kg of milk powder. Gradually one can increase the concentration and doses. Though, one should not drastically increase the volume in the first few days When you provide your calves access to weaning buckets they will automatically start sucking and create saliva. Thanks to this the milk will end up in abomasum. . In practice it might be difficult to have the concentration constantly and the right level. Some innovations can be found on the market that help you in this process. For instance, the milk taxi from Holm & Laue. Thanks to the smart ID you will always feed the right concentration and volume to each individual calf. After a few weeks you can gradually start feeding roughage.
Calf rearing systems
Just as high quality nutrition, a dairy farmer should provide a good living environment for his or her calves. In order to avoid diseases or infections it is crucial that your calves live in a clean and draft-free calf hutch. For this reason, a newborn calf is kept in single hutches so it is less likely that infections spread. After the first 2 weeks you can move a calf to a group hutch. American research has shown that calves that are held in pairs or groups have a significantly higher food intake.
Topcalf believes in the concept of group housing and therefore has created it’s project: “Calf housing with perspective”. In short, this means that single and group hutches are combined. This way, calves attain a better growth and experience less stress moments. In the first week, place your calves in a trio, quattro or quinto calf hutch. After this period you can simply remove the portioning walls and create a small group hutch. When your calves are strong enough you could move them to a bigger hutch with fellow calves.
To measure is to know
In order to be able to make the right decisions in the calf rearing process, insights into the growth curve is important. By regularly checking and weighing your calves you have a clear view on the calves that perform well, and the ones that lack behind. To be able to achieve a daily growth of 800-1000 g all the factors above should be considered. Furthermore, all calves have the right and need to have access to fresh drinking water. Would you like to know which studies we are running at the moment? Take a look at the following webpage: