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Rural Diary July
1 July 2019 External Supplier

Why add extras to calf milk?

Milk from the vat is an important source of nutrients, meeting most of the energy, protein, calcium and phosphorous requirements to support calf growth. Why then do we add extra vitamins, minerals, probiotics, prebiotics and coccidiostats to milk? 

  1. To cover any deficiencies from the cow
    Phosphorous, selenium, copper, Vitamin E and Vitamin A can be passed from the cow to the calf. If any of these nutrients are deficient in the diet of the cow, there is a risk that the calf may also be born deficient. Adding these minerals and vitamins to milk can help ‘top up’ any limiting nutrients passed from the dam. It also demonstrates the importance of trace mineral supplementation through the dry period. 

  2. To cover the calf while it is only consuming low volumes of milk
    Although milk is highly nutritious, a young calf may not be drinking sufficient volume to meet its requirements for minerals and vitamins. This is the reason comprehensive nutrition supplements such as DanCalf® Gold are recommended for the first 30 days of life.

  3. Infection with coccidia often occurs before meal intake is sufficient
    Most commercial calf meals contain a coccidiostat to prevent coccidiosis. Often however, it takes time before the calf is eating enough meal to meet the required dose to prevent coccidia infection. Including a coccidiostat in milk can help cover this period. Note that milk additives with Bovatec® should not be added to calf milk replacer that already contains an ionophore coccidiostat (such as Bovatec or Rumensin®). 

  4. To supply vitamins while the rumen is developing
    Supplementation with both B and C vitamins is especially important in the first three weeks. The calf cannot make its own vitamins (especially the B vitamins) until it has a functioning rumen. The longer it takes to develop the rumen, the longer the risk of B vitamin deficiency. A calf also takes at least three weeks to be able to synthesise its own Vitamin C.

  5. To provide nutrients that support growth and development 
    Vitamin A helps to prevent issues with sight and Vitamin D improves skeletal development, while selenium and Vitamin E are vital for normal muscular development and antioxidant status.

  6. To provide iron 
    Milk is a poor source of iron, meaning calves can be at risk of anaemia. It is important to supplement iron, especially for calves that are fed milk-only for an extended period.

  7. To provide beneficial gut bacteria 
    It takes time for the calf to develop their own microbial profile in the intestine. While there is some initial inoculation from amniotic fluid, colostrum and bacteria from the cow’s teat, providing large quantities of probiotic bacteria is highly beneficial. Prebiotics also assist by preventing the ‘bad bacteria’ from getting established and improving the function of ‘good’ bacteria. DanCalf Gold contains both a prebiotic (AgriMOS®) and probiotic (ImmuBoost®) as well as Levucell® SB live yeast for optimum hind gut health. 

For more information on giving your calves the best start, get in touch with your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative. 

Supplied by Nutritech

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Related Articles

Hard feed for calves

01 July 2019

Successful calf rearing is informed by several feeding objectives: healthy calves, optimal growth, transition to becoming a functional ruminant and successful weaning.

In this article, following on from the ‘Liquid feeding in calves’ article in Rural Diary June, the focus is around step two of the calf feeding framework with emphasis on rumen development.

As demonstrated in the calf feeding framework, all calves of all ages require free choice access to good quality, clean and palatable water. Optimal growth can be achieved by offering calves free choice access to liquid feed. The challenge is that if we continue that feeding regime, the calves will look great but when the liquid feed is removed, a slump in growth rates after weaning can occur. This defeats the objective of optimal growth.

To trigger rumen development, the microbial ecosystem in the rumen needs to be established. Rumen bacteria and protozoa grow rapidly on grain carbohydrates and produce butyrate and propionate. These volatile fatty acids stimulate rumen papillae growth as well as providing nutrients for the calf. As demonstrated in the framework, restricting liquid feed to 10 percent of Birth Body Weight (BBW) in step two encourages intake of calf starter.

The crude protein requirement for calf starter is 20 percent on a dry matter basis¹. There are products with a greater Crude Protein (CP) content which are beneficial for calves raised on accelerated weaning programmes. Work done at Poukawa² found that calves fed 16 percent grower meal or barley grain had compromised average daily gains. Check the list of ingredients for highly digestible protein sources such as soybean and/or canola meal. PKE or urea can help lift the protein content of grain, however the digestibility of PKE is poor in young calves and urea does not provide any protein directly to the animal. 

Fresh calf starter should be available free choice, with troughs being cleaned out and re-filled at least once per day. Re-filling the troughs without removal of the stale feed may limit dry matter intake and growth.

Fibrous feed is also needed to build musculature, encourage blood flow to the gut, and for rumen volume expansion³. Good quality forage such as lucerne hay and/or pasture can also be introduced from approximately three to four weeks of age. Relative to their small size, pre-weaned calves have a high energy requirement. If calves consume too much pasture, the intake of calf starter may be limited and average daily gain slowed. This may extend the days to weaning off liquid feed. 

A calf is ready for weaning when she is consuming 1 to 1.5 kg of 20 percent CP calf starter for three days in a row. Regardless of age or weight, a calf consuming this much starter has enough energy and protein to keep growing, even when liquid feed is removed. Good quality pasture and/or hay must also be available.

For more assistance with reviewing the starter feeding programme on your farm, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

¹ NRC, Nutrient Requirements of dairy cattle, 200.1.
² Profitable Calf Rearing Project (99PR05); P.D. Muir, 2009.
³ Kahn et al., 2011 JDS 94:1071-1081.

Tips to prevent and treat downer cows

01 July 2019

Most farms still experience a few metabolic downer cow cases each spring. This is where cows are unable to regulate the complexities of mineral and energy metabolism, resulting in low blood mineral or energy levels and an inability to stand. The sooner these affected cows are treated, the greater the chances of making a full recovery. 

Contributing interacting factors to metabolic disease include:

  • Dramatically increased energy demands for milk production and sudden demand for calcium, which requires mobilisation from the cow’s bone stores.
  • Decreased dry matter intake around calving.
  • High magnesium requirement coinciding with low levels in pasture.
  • Prevention strategies that include dusting minerals onto feed with large daily variations in cow intake.

There are two main types of metabolic diseases:

Milk fever (hypocalcaemia) consists of low blood calcium levels that are often seen in older and well-conditioned cows, occuring at calving or the first 48 hours after. Jersey genetics are more prone than Friesian genetics. Cows with mild symptoms are excitable and uncoordinated. Progressively cows go down, become quiet, and develop an S-bend in their neck. Severe cases become unresponsive, head along the flank or lying flat out. Some bloat, and may regurgitate rumen contents and choke. 
Grass staggers (hypomagnesaemia) can occur anytime, especially with lush grass and ineffective magnesium supplementation. In early stages, cows are agitated, twitch and may kick cups off. A drop in milk production can occur at the herd level. In the next stage, cows exhibit excited aggressive behaviour, going down but remaining alert and easily stimulated. Severe cases suffer from seizures before becoming unresponsive and dying. Grass staggers is an emergency, so treat immediately. Staff safety is important as cows can become aggressive.
It is common to have symptoms of both occurring so diagnosis can be difficult. The following is a basic safe treatment regime for downer cows. Before treating, always check that the cow has calved. If mastitis is present, seek veterinary advice.

Treatment of downer cows

  • If still standing (early stages), give a 500 ml bag of calcium borogluconate (Metaboost CBG) under the skin of the neck or over the ribs plus an oral calcium and magnesium drench for example, Calci Blue.
  • For down cows, give 500 ml Metaboost CBG slowly into the jugular vein in the neck which provides sufficient calcium for two to four hours. If unable to give via vein, then give under the skin but this takes longer to absorb and act. At the same time, give a second bag of Metaboost 4-in-1 under the skin as some cases of milk fever are complicated by low magnesium or ketosis.
  • When the cow can swallow and is retracting her tongue when you grab it, administer Calci Blue to increase protection to 12 to 24 hours.
  • If cows are clearly aggressive or convulsing then this is most likely grass staggers. Be careful and administer Metaboost 4-in-1 under the skin and seek veterinary help immediately.

General care of downer cows

The following can greatly improve outcomes:

  •  Lay a ground sheet and cover the cow, bring into shelter/barn if possible to prevent hypothermia. 
  • Offer water and high quality food at all times.
  • Give a starter oral drench for extra energy, for example, Rite-Start or Calci Blue.
  • Use lifters for short periods only, several times daily. Never leave cows hanging in clamps/sling.
  • Have on a soft cushioned surface, rolling cows from side to side to help blood circulation in muscles of legs and prevents nerve damage.
  • Check for and treat mastitis.

If you have any specific questions relating to metabolic disorders, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative. Check out this month’s offer in Stock ‘n’ Save July.

Sponsored by Animal Health Direct


PGG Wrightson Livestock Roundup June 28

05 July 2019

Mark Leishman talks to PGW Livestock GM, Peter Moore in the latest Livestock Update.  This week’s interview focuses on general conditions, the successful launch of bidr® at Fieldays and an update on the market. 

General Conditions
Fresh mornings and beautiful days are giving good feed utilization for farmers giving we have had a dry summer with sporadic rain. There is a worry of not having enough water to see farmers through to summer, but over the last 2 weeks there has been enough rain to get things growing and moving along and hopes are that late winter and early spring will see adequate rain to lead into summer. 

bidr® Launch
This launch exceeded expectations with high interest from clients, farmers and other agencies. There was a lot of discussion around utilizing bidr® coming into the slower parts of the season. Peter also gives a brief explanation of what bidr® is and how it works. 

General Market Update
A quiet period for the markets currently. The sheep market continues to remain strong, with high international demand for beef and lamb and a $7 pay out for dairy next year. The commodities are looking good across the board. 

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