Dr Harma Berends, of Trouw Nutrition Research & Development, was interviewed after she addressed the audience during the symposium which marked the official opening of Trouw Nutrition's new Calf & Beef Research Facility in the Netherlands last April. In her interview she discussed the need to define nutrient requirements for calves fed a higher plane of nutrition and the fact that a higher nutrient load does not necessarily negatively affect insulin sensitivity. She also touched upon what she sees as the challenges ahead for calf research and nutrition.
Dr Berends explained that the current calf nutrition guidelines from the NRC are based on restricted feeding plans, which only allow for as much as 600 grams of growth per day. When feeding higher planes of nutrition, as the LifeStart program recommends, it becomes necessary to define a new set of nutrient requirements. She believes that these new requirements should encompass what calves need as they grow more rapidly via elevated nutritional planes, in order to support and promote the best possible lifetime performance and productivity.
While it has been postulated that along with a higher nutrient load, calves can develop insulin sensitivity, Dr Berends points out that that's not the case with controlled dairy calf studies. When enhanced feeding schemes are utilized from birth, and where colostrum intake is also regulated according to LifeStart protocols, any possible insulin sensitivity can indeed be managed, without strong or long-lasting effects.
In terms of objectives for the future, Dr Berends feels that one of the fundamental issues that calf nutrition researchers need to delve into is the industry's current dairy dependence for milk replacers. In order to create more sustainable calf diets and a more sustainable dairy production chain as a whole, she believes it's essential to do so, while supporting calves' future production in the best possible way and without compromising calf health and welfare. Dr Berends also sees several additional objectives for future research and development including looking at meal digestion, rates of gastric emptying, studying post-absorptive aspects, as well as looking at issues with gut barrier function.
The challenges ahead are many. But, the researchers at Trouw Nutrition are more than up to the challenge. Like Dr Berends, they are on the forefront of new developments in calf nutrition which will pave the way for future generations of increased calf health, growth and production accomplished via sustainable methods.