VOLAC ‘FEED FOR GROWTH’ LAUNCH SUCCESS
OVER two hundred farmers and vets packed Greenmount College assembly hall for the Ulster launch of the ‘Feed for Growth’ programme from Volac reports Rodney Magowan.
Setting the scene at this calf rearing workshop Niall Jaggan, global products manager for Volac, pulled no punches when it came to showing how critical early days are in determining a dairy cow’s lifetime performance.
“Getting calf rearing right as regards nutrition, health and environment boosts cow lifetime performance by 40% over the national average. By following the ‘Feed for Growth’ programme your heifers can calve down by 24 months, produce more milk for more lactations and get back in calf on time. And all for less investment of your time and money!
“Volac has developed this new programme to ensure we make full use of the young calf’s ability to make much better use of feed than at any other period in life. Feeding well early in their life yields a huge lifetime bonus. Output rises, inputs fall and herd health is improved.”
Turning to UK wide average figures Niall noted that lack of longevity was a problem with far too many cows dying in debt.
“If heifers are not reared on target to be calved and in the parlour by 24 months then they may not break event and be in profit until the third lactation! A lactation almost 60% of British dairy cows currently do not live to see!
“On farm research has shown that following the Volac ‘Feed for Growth’ programme and using the toolkit supplied can add 10 months to a dairy cow’s milking life!
“Sadly most producers here, and across the water, are reporting an age of first calving average of 29 months. A shocking waste when you realise this means huge numbers do not calve until nearer three years than two years old.
“This pushes rearing costs up and can be avoided by putting the emphasis on how calves are managed, especially prior to weaning. That is when food conversion figures at 2:1 are best and the foundations are literally laid for a well framed cow able to keep on milking and keep coming back into calf on time.
“Ensuring calf birthweight has doubled when weaned at no later than 60 days of age makes sound business sense for years to come. Heifers are reared for much less yet put more milk in your bulk tank sooner and for much longer.
“Research, including on farm trials in the USA and here in the UK, has shown the massive impact of successful heifer rearing on a farm’s viability in good times and bad.
“Thus the Volac ‘Feed for Growth’ programme is being launched as a package to help make every farmer a truly professional calf rearer. One, who has target figures in place and the simple, time saving means of recording each animal’s progress.
“If you don’t know where you are then the chances of getting to the right place on the bottom line in any enterprise is poor.
“To freely access the ‘Feed for Growth’ programme browse www.feedforgrowth.com or contact Volac NI manager Alistair Sampson, tel; 078606 26442.
“Volac has for 40 years been market leader with quality calf milk replacers manufactured using a unique filtration process. Now the company is stepping forward to provide calf rearers with a heifer roadmap that helps maximise lifelong livestock performance.”
SET YOUR GROWTH TARGETS
BE proactive and set growth targets in order to optimise first and subsequent lactation milk yields Prof Mike Van Amburgh urged his Ulster audience.
“If your heifers fail to achieve these targets by first conception, then they never ever catch up,” warned the Professor from Cornell University College of Agriculture. Five hours drive north of New York City the campus is in an area of New York State home to over 30,000 dairy cows.
“Younger animals at first breeding are reproductively more efficient, they are able to do more work so you’ll get more days of milk and they’ll have fewer problems. These younger animals do not cost as much to rear to first lactation and produce more profit. Furthermore, you need fewer annual replacements to maintain herd size.”
“Your goal is to achieve 82% of mature size to achieve 80% of mature cow milk yield. For mature weight, it’s determined at the middle of the third and fourth lactation, 80 to 200 days in milk on healthy cows, not culls.”
See Table 1 for target weights.
CALF HOUSING FOUNDATIONS OF YOUR FARMING FUTURE
IS your calf housing ‘a make do and mend affair’ at the bottom of your yard and at the bottom of your investment priorities?
If so Aberdonian cattle housing consultant Jamie Robertson had some words of warning during the Volac ‘Feed for Growth’ heifer rearing workshop at Greenmount College.
He urged rearers to list the costs accumulated by a mediocre shed over the past year due to deaths, numbers not thriving, medicines used and time taken up trying to sort out problems.
“Then ask how many years have you and your family put up with these problems? Problems that have an immediate impact on your daily chores and for years to come leave you with less productive animals.
“For many this wee bit of number crunching leads to a more serious look at how an existing outbuilding can be improved or money invested in a purpose built calf rearing unit.”
“In my consultancy work around the British Isles I find that about half of naturally ventilated cattle sheds are simply not fit for purpose. Indeed as calf housing will not benefit from any stack effect a fan and duct is essential.”
Continuing he reminded rearers that housing problems are generally down to imbalances in the animal’s environment due to too much moisture, lack of fresh air or wrong air speed.
“Poor drainage, poor ventilation or having no
means of controlling air speed will cost you money again and again so my message is simple – get it sorted.
“Look at websites such as www.dairyco.org.uk for information on building design.
“Time and again ill health and poor performance can be traced back to poor drainage and not considering the actual wind speed, air quality and temperature down at calf height”
Jamie Robertson, Livestock Management Systems consultant is based at; 81, Waterloo Quay, Aberdeen, AB11 5DE. Tel; 07971 564148
PRE-WEANING IMPACT ON MILK YIELD
NUTRITION and growth rate prior to weaning has a much more direct and significant effect on milk yield than genetic selection for production according to American trials.
“Whilst genetic selection within the herds evaluated yielded just 68kg – 115kg of additional milk per lactation, better pre-weaning calf nutrition and management yielded between four and eight times more milk,” revealed Prof Mike Van Amburgh at the Volac event on Greenmount CAFRE Campus.
“That means when you feed for more nutrient supply above maintenance, then you are actually setting the calf up to be a better lifetime milk producer.
Continuing the Professor noted the influence calf health on an animal’s livelong performance. Pre-weaned calves in US trials which had no health problems went on as adults to produce an additional 780kg milk yield compared with those suffering diarrhoea.
These pre-weaned calves suffering scour proved to be very sensitive to intakes compared with healthy ones. Feed intakes were reduced consequently less protein was available for protein accretion. Growth rates reduced when calves suffered diarrhoea by 30g/day and where treatment was administered overall growth was 50g/day less when compared to healthy calves. The stunted growth period was compounded by the fact it takes two to three weeks for recovery before normal feed intakes resume.
PROGRAMMING 'BETTER' HEIFERS
JUST when does the process of creating a quality heifer begin? From conception, Cornell University Professor Mike Van Amburgh told the ‘Feed for Growth’ Volac workshop at Greenmount.
“Dairy cows giving birth to heifers have higher yields. US trials featuring 2.39 million lactations from 1.49 million cattle concluded that those calving heifers produced an average 980lbs more milk over their first two lactations.
“These findings demonstrate that a cow’s nurturing signals start at conception and biased milk production is programmed during pregnancy. A cow favours her heifer with more milk for better growth.
“That’s lactocrine hypothesis programming: a cow sends signals via her colostrum which say she wants her calf to grow and be healthy,” he added.
“Whilst noted for providing immunoglobulins (IgG) to establish passive immunity, colostrum also contains a complex mix of nutrients and non-nutrients which instruct the calf how to realise her genetic potential.”
They include insulin which drives glucose out of the gut and into the digestive system, prolactin, IGF-1 which drives protein synthesis, 17 βEstradiol, a steroid for growth promotion and growth hormone.
Whilst research into understanding colostrum’s function is currently ongoing, trials have so far proven that the mix of components encourage
- gut maturation - more developed function tissue and more enzymes encourage greater digestibility, absorption capacity and uptake
- a supply of hormones that enhance absorption
- and an uptake of hormones which altered set points for feed uptake, and possibly feed efficiency
Prof van Amburgh noting that ,“US trials which extended colostrum feeding beyond the first 24 hours to the first four days concluded that glucose uptake increased by almost 100%, plasma glucagon and plasma protein levels were higher and plasma urea lower.
“Further US trials have concluded that colostrum’s components can impact on pre and post weaning feed efficiency. Colostrum has also been proven to influence feed intake regulation or satiety post weaning and the combination of the two effects maybe for life.
“In other words, the lactocrine hypothesis proposes that some factors in colostrum may permanently affect future calf performance such as growth, efficiency or even future milk production.”