Focus on calf rearing

TAKING PART: Enjoying the LifeStart: Energizer calf rearing seminar in Ballyclare are Andrew Park, Ballyclare and Michael Woodside, Clare Veterinary Group.

A series of LifeStart: Energizer calf rearing seminars ended with a recent meeting for farmers, hosted by the Clare Veterinary Group, in tandem with Trouw Nutrition and Zoetis.

Dr Mark Little, Trouw Nutrition, explained that LifeStart research has demonstrated that feeding calves elevated planes of nutrition has a significant impact on gene expression and positively influence an animal’s metabolism with the effects visible later in life.

INFORMED: Chatting at the recent calf rearing seminar in Ballyclare

Mark also explained that Milkivit Energizer has been specifically formulated to ensure that the calf receives a balanced nutrient supply to ensure optimal development whilst supporting the health of the calf.

The formula is closer to that of natural milk with 10 per cent more metabolisable energy, with the difference in calf performance and health demonstrated on farms. Milkivit Energizer resets the quality of milk a calf needs. Milkivit Energizer is available from United Feeds.

Recent research has confirmed that the phenotypical expression of genotype depends, to a large extent, on the environment within which an animal is reared. In other words, an animal’s metabolism can be programmed.

For example, it is now known that feeding practices over the first two months of life can impact on a heifer’s age at first calving plus her subsequent production performance.

“It all starts with colostrum. In very simple terms, colostrum is the single most important meal that a cow will receive during its entire life,” stressed Mark Little

“This is a tool that the cow uses to help her calf during its first few weeks of life.”

Mr Little confirmed that a calf should get four litres of colostrum within the first hour of life.

“This can be made available through tubing or by way of bottle. Research indicates that there is no difference in the way colostrum is delivered: the challenge is to get it into the calf as soon as possible.

He continued: “Pre-weaning average daily liveweight gains will determine a cow’s milk yield in her first and second lactations.

“Maiden heifers should be bred according to weight and not age. By taking this approach, and assuming that heifers are maintained on an adequate plane of nutrition, it should be possible to calve them down for the first time at between 21 and 23 months.”

Dr Jan Van Dijk, Veterinary Consultant, Zoetis, informed the meeting that on dairy farms, death rates in calves between one and six months may run as high as 29 per cent. Animals surviving pneumonia can suffer stunted growth rates and therefore fail to calve down at 24 months of age.

In terms of pneumonia prevention, the importance of colostrum ‘passively immunising’ the calf has been stressed for many years. Vaccination also has a crucial role to play. Zoetis has a wide respiratory disease vaccine portfolio – which makes it possible to tailor the vaccine protocol to individual farms.

In particular, the introduction of Rispoval IntraNasal has been a game changer as it facilitates vaccination of calves as young as nine days of age.

Launched earlier this year, Clarifide Plus is a simple genomic test predicting how an animal will perform in the herd.

With reliabilities of up to 70 per cent, it predicts not only what production levels can be expected but also how likely an animal is to suffer from common diseases, such as calf respiratory disease

This exciting new test can be used to select animals with a greater resilience to calf respiratory disease and breed these to be the future of the herd.

ARRIVED: Attending the recent LifeStart

Once the potential of a newborn animal is known, it becomes possible to choose which animals to keep at an early age. Clarifide Plus is the only test on the market giving a prediction on the likelihood of specific diseases occurring.


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