Sector Ruminants

Calves are what they eat, unlocking THE genetic potential of your herd

The genetic potential of dairy cows increases every year. With a focus on production and longevity, cows theoretically become better and better. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between individual cows and farms. Even when genetic predictions are high, results on the farm are often lower than expected. Raising a calf to a successful lactation requires excellent management with an outstanding feed program. Research shows that up to 20% of the milk production during the first lactation is determined by the growth rate of young calves.

Early feed intake and rumen development

Unlocking the genetic capabilities of calves in the first months of life is important. Only during this period can the number of udder secretory cells be influenced to increase milk production potential. Moreover, the basis for rumen development begins in the first weeks of life. Besides an excellent milk replacer, calves need a high-quality calf starter to trigger rumen development. At the moment of weaning, calves immediately become completely dependent on the rumen, with over 70% of rumen fermentation accounting for the energy supply. For good rumen development, feeding concentrates containing starch are crucial to the formation of volatile fatty acids, which trigger formation of the rumen wall and rumen papillae. Strong rumen development results in higher nutrient absorption, increasing the capacity for milk production in later stages.

Digestible and palatable feed

Feeding tasteful roughage is vital, as proper feed intake is key for young calves. The more feed calves eat, the higher the growth and the smaller the weaning dip. In optimal conditions, no weaning dip will occur (Figure 1). Of course, the utilization of nutrients for young calves depends on the digestibility of the feedstuffs. To ensure efficient use of nutrients, a calf starter with highly digestible ingredients—like starch and sugars—is necessary. Heat-treated cereals (flakes) contain readily available digestible starch and are tasty to the calf. By selecting a quality calf starter with readily available sugar sources, high feed intake is encouraged.

Figure 1: Body weight development of calves on two different feeding regimes and the effect of a weaning dip on body weight development

Respiratory health

During the first months of age, health is a critical attention point in calf rearing. All oversights regarding the health status of calves will result in lower growth and development along with lower efficiency as a dairy cow. One of the most common issues during this period is respiratory problems. Many calves suffer from lung problems during the first months of their lives, significantly reducing their growth and development. Notably, severe respiratory problems can lead to irreversible damage to the lungs. Increased immunity status of calves, especially the neutrophil quality, will result in a lower frequency of respiratory problems. This leads to more healthy and efficient animals in the short and long term. Therefore, Earlyfeed includes special feed additives which are proven to decrease respiratory problems in calves.

Intestinal integrity

Another crucial point in calf rearing is intestine health. Many calves suffer from diarrhea during the milk period and weaning phase. Diarrhea can be induced by poor colostrum management or improper feed management. It is commonly caused by ‘bad’ bacteria, viruses, and parasites that damage the intestinal cell layer. Due to this malfunction of the intestine, a large percentage of water and nutrients are lost through diarrhea. Diarrhea results in dehydration, blood acidosis, low energy status, and other negative effects on growth and development. To prevent diarrhea, Rumi®Start contains an extensive intestine health concept that kills harmful bacteria, agglutinates gram-negative bacteria, and even protects the intestine cell wall.

Rumi® Start

Earlyfeed’s stimulating feed intake program focuses on young animal nutrition for calves and is characterized by palatable raw materials with highly digestible nutrients to extend health, support growth, and encourage exceptional feed intake. With Earlyfeed’s advanced calve starter composition, Rumi®Start is a well-balanced calf starter containing all the macronutrients calves need through the weaning period. All raw materials are carefully selected for digestibility and palatability. Next to these important nutrients, Rumi®Start contains a scientifically-backed functional feed ingredient program to support the health and growth development of young calves. This health concept contains well known products—like Aromabiotic® Cattle and Vitanox—and other state-of-the-art ingredients. Rumi®Start, supports improved gut integrity, immunity, and the gut microbiome for increased milk production potential, unlocking the complete genetic capacity of calves.

Your Earlyfeed expert
Harrie van der Vliet
Product Manager Ruminants

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Do you want to get things right from the start?

Getting your rearing strategies right early in the production cycle, pays off in the long run.
Together, let’s give the youngest animals everything they need to perform well later in life.

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