Dairy veterinarian Aagje Kramer knows that the focus for dairy farmers is always on having good, productive, healthy cows. And with the current economic pressures, there’s a great deal of importance placed on those cows staying healthy and lasting a long time. Given that in order to have healthy cows, you need to first have healthy calves, Ms. Kramer notes that she advises farmers that it’s of the utmost importance that they should focus on the way they feed and raise their calves and make sure their calves gain enough weight in the pre-weaning period.
However, she does understand that there’s often a hesitation on the part of the farmers. After all, the rearing process of a heifer often feels like two years of money going in to the process, without any money coming out! But, if you want your calves to double in weight from the time they are born until the time they are weaned, according to Ms. Kramer that means that they need to grow at least 800 grams per day during that period. This early growth would then get them ready for breeding at 14 or 15 months and get them up to calving at about 24 months.
Ms. Kramer recommends to her farmers that they use milk replacer so that they have better control over the consistency of what they’re feeding their calves. Whereas whole milk varies in terms of components and waste milk has its dangers due to the potential for increasing antibiotic resistance, she feels that feeding milk replacer to neonatal calves at elevated levels, as is done with the LifeStart program, is the best choice for consistency and great results.
Indeed, raising the plane of neonatal nutrition does require a bit of investment. And what do the farmers get as a return on that investment? Ms. Kramer explains that once she helps farmers to see that they will have healthier calves with less lung problems, enough energy to grow, a lower age at breeding and at calving, and better performance down the line, they understand that their investment will more than pay off in time!