New transition milk replacer plugs important gap in calf nutrition
Scientific research by a leading milk replacer company has led to a significant breakthrough in early calf nutrition.
This research has resulted in the launch of a feeding system that delivers the performance benefits of transition cow milk without the disease risk of Johnes.
While Teagasc is of the view that transition milk may help where there is a high risk of scour, it should only be fed to beef calves or where the Johnes status of the cows is known.
Why is transition milk important?
Transition milk contains important antibodies and its removal as the main feed source for calves in the first 14 days has created a major nutrition gap.
Joe Murphy of Bonanza Calf Nutrition said the value that transition milk has in the first two weeks of a calf’s life is evident just by comparing baby bull calves and heifers on the same farm.
“The bull calves on transition milk look better than the heifers on calf milk.’’
This is because calves that are introduced to milk replacer immediately after colostrum miss out on those antibodies and this can compromise their performance.
Developing a new product to plug that gap
Following extensive research, Bonanza Calf Nutrition has developed a unique product to plug that gap – Transformula.
Murphy calculates that feeding Transformula will cost €14-15/calf – a net cost of €5 over standard milk replacers.
It has been shown to vastly improve calf growth rates during and after feeding.
He explained the science behind it.
The benefits of colostrum are a given and feeding four litres of good quality colostrum in the first two hours of a calf’s life is key to future health and performance.
“But increasingly there is a realisation that this is not the full story.
“The surface of the small intestine is like an external skin and has to withstand the physical and chemical abrasion of food, digestion and the continuous attack of pathogenic organisms.
“The cells of the small intestine are replaced by new cells within a few days of birth and the surface antibody from colostrum, at this stage, is rapidly depleting leaving these new cells vulnerable to attack,”
Transition milk contains a surface antibody that can replace the colostrum antibody and this will remain in the small intestine to help maintain calf intestinal health.
“In order to protect calves against rotavirus farmers are vaccinating cows to increase the level of antibody in colostrum but this will only be partially effective, unless colostrum or transition milk is continued to be fed for at least seven-to-14 days,” he said.
Because of Johne’s disease and practical issues on many farms, calves only get one or two feeds of colostrum at most before going on to milk replacer.
Key facts about Transformula
Transformula contains beneficial probiotic bacteria that compete with pathogens in the small intestine.
“Transformula is designed for use after colostrum feeding, Murphy explained.
“It is made with over 60% skim milk and buttermilk along with five plant oils and whey protein so that it is easily digested by the baby calf.
“Because it is dried under low temperatures it ensures the baby calf is not exposed to high bacterial counts found in stored, raw cows milk,” he said.
Transformula also contains Krypto-nite a plant extract used by farmers at high levels in milk replacer when they encounter cryptosporridia.
Egg protein from hens immunised against bovine E-coli, Rotavirus and Salmonella is also added.