A veterinarian’s perspective

My name is Aagje Kramer. I have been a veterinarian for 3 ½ years now. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I have been in the industry for a while now. We serve about 130 dairies. Our main business is dairy. That’s what I usually do during the day; dairies!

I think that for all dairy farmers right now, it’s very important that they get good, productive, healthy cows. And with prices going up more and more, it’s important that cows stay healthy and last for a long time. So, if the start of that lays with the calves, the way you feed them and raise them and make sure that they gain enough weight during that first period so that they give more milk, that’s the way that we try to advise our dairy farmers right now.

The whole rearing process of a heifer is two years of money going in and not getting money out. And that’s the hesitation… It’s more cost.

The calf is born and it doubles in weight when it’s at weaning. So, usually at 90 kilograms. And that means, if you just do the math, that they should grow about 800 grams a day during that period. Then, the first time of breeding usually is at 14 or 15 months, so you get them calving at 24 months. I think that’s the main goal.

And then as well what we usually comment is that if they’re weaned they don’t do any other changes around that period. So, don’t move the group or get them out of the group, or put them in a different facility.

I think here in the Netherlands the main factor in this question is the Johne’s program that we’re in and the salmonellosis. So, if they’re not free of those diseases, I would always recommend to go to milk replacer. The advantage of milk replacer is that you have better control of what you’re feeding your calves. It’s consistent. If you feed whole milk, there’s always a little bit of difference in components. And then, especially if you’re going to feed waste milk, I think the whole role of the antimicrobial discussions that we’re having, it’s better not to do that because of the resistance of antibiotics that you can create with that.

You know, I’m a veterinarian. So, in that way, it’s easy to see that calves are healthier when you use the LifeStart program. So, for my part, it’s quite easy to make them see that it will help the calves better, you get less lung problems if they grow good and have enough energy to grow. And then, for other advisors, you can look at what the age of breeding is, or what the performance is as a heifer and put that all together.

So, I think it’s really important that a good start for those heifers is going to make for a long lasting life as a dairy cow.

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