‘The beginning is everything’: Give your calves the start they need

Calves are born with no immunity and rely solely on passive immunity transferred to them.

The tricky situation for all of our farmers is to ensure every calf on their farm receives the required protection they need during the busy calving period.

High-quality colostrum is the number one way to kick-start a calf’s life. One vital piece of kit, which every farmer should have, for testing quality is a brix refractometer or a colostrometer.

Follow the 1-2-3 rule

3-2-1 colostrum:

  • 1st milking;
  • Feed within 2 hours of birth;
  • 3L of clean colostrum.

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Calves must receive 3L or 5-6% of their birth weight within the first two hours of life from the dam’s first milking.

After the second milking, eight hours later, the immunoglobulin content will be halved.

It is key for every calf to receive good-quality colostrum. At least 65-70% of calves presented at veterinary labs postmortem have received inadequate levels of colostrum.

Clean colostrum not only prevents disease transfer within the herd, but a high level of bacteria and dirt contamination within colostrum also negatively effects the absorption of immunoglobulins through the calf.

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The ‘Easi’ way to feed calves – GAIN Calf Milk Replacer range

Consistency in the diet of the calf and a reduction in the level of disease transfer in the herd are the two key advantages of feeding milk replacer.

It is important to feed a calf milk replacer that is high in quality and that promotes growth.

Calf milk replacers that have high levels of vegetable protein should be avoided, as they are not digestible by young calves. Calves should receive 6L of milk per day, split into two feeds.

Feeding calf milk replacer starts within the first week of life and continues until the calf is at least two months-of-age.

The key specifications of a high-quality milk replacer are:

  • Protein content 20-25%;
  • Fat content 18-20%;
  • Ash content <8.0%;
  • Fiber content <0.15%.

Calf milk replacer should mix at a rate which gives 12.5% of milk solids to the calf which equates to good-quality whole milk.

Hygiene and water temperature are very important and should be adhered to. Warm water should be used as boiling water can corrupt the proteins in the milk.

Glanbia has three calf milk replacers which range from 20-25% protein and are suitable for various on-farm enterprises:

  • GAIN Easi Mix would be targeted to the replacement heifer market – 25% protein;
  • GAIN Easi Dual is typically used for replacement heifers and beef breeds – 23% protein;
  • GAIN Easi Beef is a whey-based protein, typically used in a calf-to-beef scenario.

Glanbia has a wide range of calving essentials on offer in store and online at: GlanbiaConnect.com.

Concentrate and forage essential to kick-start the rumen

The transition period from milk to solid feed is very important. This process initiates rumen development and this is a key element in calf performance.

Calves should have access to clean water and forage, in the form of straw. This also helps to increase total dry matter intake and it enhances post-weaning weights.

Calves are enticed easily to GAIN Startacalf and it should be introduced to the calves’ diet from five to seven days-of-age.

GAIN Startacalf triggers the beginning of bacteria fermentation and rumen development.

The sooner calves start to eat or drink the better. GAIN Startacalf Muesli, 18% protein, is a cooked ration which is highly molassed, high energy and a very palatable feed.

Startacalf should be offered to calves from three days-of-age until they consume 250g/head/day.

Further to this, GAIN Calf Crunch 18% or GAIN Goldgrain 18% nut can be offered.

GAIN Goldgrain is fed until approximately two weeks’ post weaning; following this, calves should be introduced to GAIN Wean n Build 16% nut if going to grass. If remaining indoors calves should be kept on GAIN Calf Rearer nut 18% until which point they go to grass.

For a limited time, Glanbia is offering free delivery on all GAIN Calf Feeds and Calf Milk Replacers bought online at: GlanbiaConnect.com.