Dry feed and water should be plentiful both prior to and during weaning for smoothness of transition and rumen development
Calves will always consume dry feed from an early age, even if consuming large amounts of milk! Access to dry feed is needed for a smooth transition for the rumen and for the digestive tract. Calves offered water tend to consume more starter than if fed milk alone. And, conversely, a lack of available water limits dry feed intake and slows rumen development. In fact, recent Trouw Nutrition research shows that calves consume 3 – 4 litres of water with each kilogram of starter feed. Therefore, in order to ensure that the transition from a primarily liquid feed diet to a diet wholly consisting of dry feed runs as smoothly as possible, it is recommended that unlimited roughage and concentrate should be available, in addition to water and a high plane of nutrition or high milk supply.
Dry feed availability assists in pre-weaning growth
Research shows (Castells, et al. 2015, amongst others) that offering forage, along with dry feed, to calves prior to weaning, spurs growth and intake before weaning and can also help in the transition to mixed diets. This is primarily due to the fact that forage stabilizes rumen fermentation and therefore boosts both starter intake and growth.
Leal et al., 2017 (in preperation)