Adequate colostrum is critical to setting the stage for a calf’s health and growth, James K. Drackley, Professor of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Thursday at World Dairy Expo.
In an Educational Seminar, “Baby Calf Nutrition: Getting Your Future Off to a Good Start,” Drackley said accelerated calf feeding programs capitalize on rapid early growth potential, decrease days to breeding and first calving, and improve health and future productivity.
“Growth and health are highly interrelated with each other and with nutrition,” he said.
Colostrum should be provided quickly, in adequate quantity, good quality and in a clean environment. It’s not just for antibodies any more but the gatekeeper for health and future production.
Other points Drackley made:
• Accelerated or intensified milk feeding programs increase pre-weaning growth rates, without fattening if nutrition is correct.
• The largest growth advantages depend on adequate colostrum intake and low-stress environments.
• Starter and post-weaning nutrition must complement to maintain advantages.
• Evidence overall suggests that a greater plane of nutrition during early life leads to increased milk production.
• If heifers are bred by height (not age), age at first calving can be decreased.
• Cost of gain is roughly the same.
• Group housing and automated feeding may help to take advantage of these programs.
The seminar was sponsored by APC, Inc.