Calf nutrition: growth engine for a new era

After years of emphasis on breeding and the treatment of disease, enhanced calf nutrion is beginning to transform the industry. There is an unprecedented opportunity for the farm adivisor who choose to make this subject an essential theme in their practices.

Preparing for success

The LifeStart feeding program helps farmers to achieve higher performance by enhancing the nutritional intake of pre-weaned calves. With LifeStart, 1 = 4, that is, every gram of ADG during the pre-weaning period translates to 4 litres of additional milk during the first lactation. But what does it take to achieve this?

The LifeStart feeding program is relatively straightforward. If the farm already uses a LifeStart-qualified CMR, or pasteurised bulk or waste milk, the transition to LifeStart will entail few modifications to existing operations. If non-pasteurised waste milk is presently being used, farmers will be encouraged to either move to a LifeStart qualified milk replacer or begin pasteurising the waste milk. Non pasteurised waste milk is not considered compatible with the LifeStart program due to the heightened health risk to calves.

Which milkfeed, how much and when?

There are many milk replacer products on the market from reputable to less reputable manufacturers. Farmers should be vigilant regarding ingredients, quality and even misleading or ambiguous labeling. A LifeStart endorsed CMR product is your guarantee that all the requisite qualities are present in the milk replacer product. LifeStart qualified milk replacers have certified quality ingredients derived from carefully selected milk solids. Beyond the label, the digestibility and metabolisability of the ingredients have been thoroughly optimised. LifeStart recommends Crude Protein content between 22 to 23%. Vegetable fats and oils should be well-balanced and optimised for digestibility. A full range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements should be present.

If pasteurised bulk or waste milk is used, variability in terms of protein, fat and vitamins should be compensated with an appropriate additive.

The feeding rate should be between 900 – 1200 g/d on a DM basis, with target ADG of 800 g/day.  Weight at weaning should be about 2.25 x birth weight, and weaning should take place at 63 days.   

LifeStart advantages go beyond greater milk output. Unlocking growth mechanisms of preweaned calves through enhanced nutrition also has advantages for calf health. This provides a huge opportunity to improve many aspects of dairy farm performance, including the workloads and costs caused by unhealthy animals.  LifeStart calf rearing objectives target substantial improvement in all aspects of calf and cow performance, as seen on the chart below. These include strong, healthy growth, less diarrhoea and respiratory issues, optimal rumen development, stronger, more durable cows with a longer production lifetime, and this in addition to higher milk yields.

Preparing the super productive farm

Benefitting from LifeStart performance isn’t about spending money, it’s about spending time fine-tuning and being vigilant regarding common sense management issues.

Contact the Trouw Nutrition LifeStart team to know how to benefit