Pre-calving mineral driving vigorous calves from birth in Co. Waterford

A colostrum-boosting mineral offered pre-calving is supporting cow and calf health on a Co. Waterford dairy farm.

Richard and Steven Fitzgerald – a father-and-son team – run a spring-calving herd of 120 Friesians, producing an annual average milk yield of 6,000L with 540kg of milk solids on their farm in Aglish.

They rear all their own replacement heifers and bull calves, with the aim to give them the very best start in life.

Uniblock’s Lifeline Pre-Calver mineral crumb is helping them to achieve that goal at an approximate cost of just 23 cent/head/day.

This product formulation – which includes levels of lactose, protected soya and a range of yeast products – helps to increase calf vitality and stimulates the immune system and increase levels of the antibodies in the cow’s colostrum and consequently boost colostrum quality for the calf.

Protected sources of copper and zinc are now included in the Lifeline formulation instead of copper and zinc sulphates or oxides, as these protected sources are more bioavailable, palatable and result in better performance, intakes and efficiency.

The Fitzgerald’s out-winter their dry cows on kale and provide them with Lifeline buckets at approximately nine weeks before calving.

By supplementing at this stage, high salt levels counteract the high potassium levels in the forage to reduce risk of milk fever at calving. Dry cows are then housed five weeks before calving and given Lifeline mineral crumb Pre-Calver at a rate of 150g/head/day in conjunction with good-quality silage.

It is introduced at this stage because colostrum formation begins approximately five weeks prior to calving; therefore, proper nutrition during this period can have a positive effect on colostrum quality.

Colostrum is the key driver for calf health; it is the calf’s first source of nutrition and immunity to disease, as there is no transfer of antibodies from cow to calf whilst in the uterus.

The newborn calf is consequently very vulnerable to disease post-parturition and relies on passive transfer of immunity from its mother via colostrum.

Cows that are deficient in minerals or with low immunity cannot produce good-quality colostrum, nor can they provide the calf with the necessary minerals required for growth and immunity.

Steven Fitzgerald says his calves are all very vigorous at birth. He said: “They have no problem drinking a minimum of 3-4L of colostrum and we have very few scour problems in the young calves.’’

Lifeline Pre-Calver is very palatable as it has a sweet coconut and vanilla flavor; the active ingredients are blended with glycerol and palm kernel, Uniblock’s Dr. Amanda Dunn outlined.

It is somewhat bulky compared to other pre-calver powders on the market and consequently it is easily spread across the silage so that all animals have good access.

Alternatively, if mixing using a diet feeder, it is very consistent within the blend and therefore results in an accurate mix.

Trial work has shown that the ingredients used in Lifeline Pre-Calver have increased colostrum antibodies by 25% and it is the only pre-calver with a patent to increase colostrum quality.

Amanda stressed the importance of providing the dry cow with adequate minerals and vitamins to benefit both her and her calf.

“If minerals and vitamins are in short supply, she is at greater risk of post-calving health problems, such as: retained cleanings; milk fever; ketosis; poor dry matter intakes; poor-quality colostrum; displaced abomasum; and fertility problems later on.

“Consequently, this can reduce efficiency, profitability and performance in the dairy herd,’’ she added.

‘Producing good-quality colostrum’

Steven has seen a big uplift in the health of his herd.

Since I started feeding the cows Lifeline Pre-Calver three years ago, I have had no problems with retained cleanings, never any issues with milk fever and very little assistance if any is required at calving.

“In addition to this, the cows are much easier to get back in calf; 94% of my herd calves down in the first six weeks,” he said.

Lifeline Pre-Calver suits his system.

“It helps eliminates common health problems around calving, is very palatable and helps produce good-quality colostrum and lively healthy calves.’’

For more information on Uniblock’s Lifeline Pre-Calver, Click here