Overcoming Calf Post-Weaning Lag
Equipment and calf data will suggest the weaning method best suited to your operation
Reducing heifer-raising costs is always a challenge. Over the last few years, feed and labour costs have been steadily increasing, with feed rising significantly. There's no question heifers drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of feed before they start contributing to your bottom line.
Nonetheless, dairy replacement nutrition and feeding is key to optimal health and productivity at every stage, from calves to first-calf heifers.
Proper nutritional management doesn't begin and end with newborn calves. Sound management practices should continue through weaning, feeding to meet target breeding age, pregnancy and during the close-up period before first calving.
Supporting better health and immune status through proper nutritional management can save you money in the long run. As well, feeding to meet puberty, weight and stature growth targets will help get your calves off to the right start.
Following these guidelines can help you reduce weaning stress and minimize post-weaning lag in your calves' performance.
Weaning is an important time for your calf. Its primary nutrient source and metabolism undergo many changes at this important stage.
Recent management recommendations suggest you should increase the amount of milk or milk replacer it consumes when weaning. However, weaning your calf from these higher volumes can be challenging and often leads to declining performance or a lag phase. Your calf's digestive system must make dramatic changes to adapt to the altered nutrition source.
Your weaning method and your calf's quantity of dry matter intake has an effect on its immune system as well as overall performance like growth rate. Studies have shown no long-term effects from weaning calves between three and eight weeks of age. However, six to eight weeks is normal practice.
On the downside, calves weaned at three weeks require more stimulation to eat enough solid feed. In this case, there would be no economic benefit to early weaning if you have to spend more time feeding the calf.
Weaning age also affects your calf's immune system. Late or early weaning and the amount of milk replacer previously fed to your calf are two factors that can affect the young animal's immune system.
|Author:||Laura Somerville - undergraduate student/University of Guelph; Mario Mongeon - Livestock Specialist/OMAFRA; Tom Wright - Dairy Nutritionist/OMAFRA.|
|Creation Date:||04 May 2011|
|Last Reviewed:||04 May 2011|