‘Unlocking’ heifer calf potential through metabolic programming

DAIRY CONFERENCE RI Farm

ONE of the keynote speakers at the CAFRE, Dairy UK and UFU Dairy Conference ‘Unlock your herd’s potential’ will be Dr Leonel Leal, Ruminant Researcher at Trouw Nutrition R & D, Netherlands, pictured right.

As well as his research on ruminant physiology and efficiency and on functional nutrition of calves, Leonel has also provided nutritional consulting for feed companies in Europe, North and South America. Currently Leonel is leading the calf research team and the LifeStart science platform within Trouw Nutrition R&D and in this role he has always been a willing host for local farmer trips to the Netherlands.

At the ‘Unlock your herd’s potential’ conference he will explain how increasing the plane of nutrition for calves on milk during the first two months of life reduces the age at first calving and increases lifetime yield in dairy cows.

Known as metabolic programming, the idea is that early life events can have an impact on later physiological outcomes. It’s a dynamic process and the effects are dependent upon a specific, critical window of opportunity.

In calves this critical period is before weaning and starts with adequate colostrum at birth. Dr Leal describes colostrum as ‘liquid gold’, and says the ‘first feed is the most important meal in a cow’s lifetime’. He recommends a four litre first feed, followed 10 hours later with a secondary two litre feed of a high BRIX score colostrum.

He says with the natural state for calves being to take in two litres of milk, seven times per day, it makes sense that restoring their intakes closer to their natural state should also have a big a positive impact.

Conference delegates will hear about the studies with calves fed the traditional level versus calves fed an elevated level of milk replacer per day and the positive results that emerged simply as a result of how calves are fed in the first two months of life.

“Unlock your herd’s potential” is a conference for dairy farmers organised by CAFRE, Dairy UK and the UFU. Conference dates Tuesday, November 19, Greenmount Campus, and Wednesday, November 20, Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh.

Tickets cost £20 (booked before November 8). Further details www.ufuni.org/events

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