According to Johan Verdaasdonk, young stock specialist of Nutrifeed, it offers an ideal guide for the calves.
“Never exceed 3.5 litres per feed,” Johan warned. “Four litres per feed means overfeeding. The result is runny manure, in otherwise healthy calves. But it is an indicator that they are unable to process all the powdered milk.” In addition, overfeeding with powdered milk does not encourage the calves to take up feed concentrate or roughage. “You are not looking to create a calf fattening unit. Another disadvantage is that the calves will suffer a weaning dip when it comes to weaning, with a commensurate dip in growth rate.”
The first six months are of crucial importance to the growth of calves, to ensure that they establish among others udder tissue. “In addition to 7 litres of milk, they should also be weaned onto the hay and feed concentrate to ensure maximum young growth, and switching to roughage at the earliest possible stage helps make every calf a ruminant.” And remember to provide sufficient water, too. “If you ask me, you can start providing water from day one.”
Sticking to a feed timetable also means weaning at 9 weeks. Using an automated calf milk dispenser, the weaning moment can easily be set to a precise date. It is less simple for groups of calves with a milk bar or bucket-fed calves. “In that case, farmers often consider the youngest animals in the group and take their growth as the guideline.” As Johan explained, the nine-week recommendation is well-founded. “You want your calves to become ruminants and that means they should be introduced to roughage as soon as possible.” What is more, “one kg of milk powder costs the same as five kg of feed concentrate. By weaning the calves, you reduce the feed costs.”
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