Feeding For Lifetime Performance

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "Feeding For Lifetime Performance"


1 Feeding For Lifetime Performance Techinical Guide


3 The importance of heifer rearing The most valuable animals on a dairy farm are dairy heifer calves having on average the highest genetic merit of all females on a farm and a lifetime of production ahead of them. However in terms of cost herd replacement is the second highest cost, on a dairy farm behind feed. New research has shown that the way calves and heifers are reared not only impact on the cost of rearing, their growth rate and health but also on longevity and lifetime milk production. On many farms there is a great opportunity to reduce the cost of heifer rearing and to increase performance because of the wide variation that exists between actual performance and realistic achievable targets. Reducing the age of calving is also an effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of a dairy herd. Goals for 22 to 24 month calving Target Calf mortality 2 % Mortality to calving 5 % Cases of scour 5 % Cases of pneumonia 5 % Age at service From 13 Months Growth Rate and FCE The optimum weight for a heifer to calve down at is 94 % of mature weight at the point of calving or 85 % of mature weight just after calving. Once that target is established the next question is at what age should that be achieved by? The latest recommendations from both an economic and animal performance perspective suggest 22 to 24 months. Calving later is more costly not only in feed costs but also housing and labour. In addition recent research has demonstrated that growing heifers faster in early life has benefits on lifetime performance. For example Bach (2012) concluded that about 225kg of additional milk in the first lactation could be expected from each additional 100g/d of growth during the first 2 months of life. This supports earlier studies by Heinrichs and Soberon. Some researchers in the past suggested that growing heifers too fast during the early prepubertal stage might compromise mammary development but that has since been refuted and new work reinforces the view that rapid growth rates of 1.0 kg/day, without fattening the animals, should not compromise future milk yield and might actually increase it. Feed represents the highest cost of heifer production and feed conversion efficiency (FCE) is an important factor to take into account when deciding on which feeding strategy to adopt. FCE is at its best when the animal is small and growing fast. Before weaning FCE is close to 2:1 rising to 10:1 by service and then 12:1 at calving. So it is vital from an efficiency of feed use and total feed cost perspective to achieve high growth rates when the heifer is young. 1 st service conception rate 80 % Weight at service Age at calving Weight at calving (point of) Longevity % that reach 3 rd lactation 55 % Mature BW 22 to 24 Months 94 % Mature BW 70 % Feed Conversion Ratio FCE by Age Weaning 6 Months Service Calving Age

4 Targets for different breeds and calving age It is important to recognise the diversity of dairy breeds and systems that exist in the UK and whilst the predominant breed is the Holstein there are a growing number of other important breeds and crosses. In addition, whilst 22 to 24 month calving is considered the most efficient some producers may still decide to calve heifers down at an older age e.g. 30 months. For this reason there are two tables detailed below giving targets by weight and wither height for heifers with different mature cow weights and target calving ages. Age Weight kg 22 to 24 Month Calving Mature Weight 700 kg 600 kg 450 kg Wither Height cm Weight kg Wither Height cm Weight kg Wither Height cm Birth Weeks Weeks Months Months Prior to Calving Months Post Calving Age Weight kg 30 Month Calving Mature Weight 700 Kg 600 Kg 450 Kg Wither Height cm Weight kg Wither Height cm Weight kg Wither Height cm Birth Weeks Weeks Months Months Prior to Calving Months Post Calving Keeping on target The most accurate measure of performance is weight by age. This requires monitoring and the best way is by using a weigh scale. However, this may not be practical and a weigh band to estimate weight or measuring stick to measure wither height is considerably more accurate than assessment by eye alone. Carrs Billington can provide bespoke recording sheets and graphs tailored for your own breed and target age of calving to monitor performance. It is more common, that if anything, the weight of heifers is underestimated and a considerable amount of time and money is wasted by delaying service until a notional date target of say 15 months of age which will guarantee an average calving age of more than 24 months since not all heifers will hold to first service.

5 Birth to 12 Weeks Colostrum Calves must receive sufficient colostrum in the early stages of life to receive adequate amounts of antibodies and nutrients to avoid falling ill. Quality Colostrum quality is variable and impossible to detect visually so it is recommended that it is tested by using equipment such as a colostrometer. Cleanliness is also vital when both harvesting and storing colostrum and allowing bacteria to multiply will not only pose an immediate threat to calves but also reduce the uptake of antibodies. Quickly Over the first 24 hours the gut rapidly closes and antibodies can no longer be absorbed. Quantity Calves must receive 3 litres in the first 6 hours of life and ideally 10% of their bodyweight within the first 24 hours. Bottle or tube feeding is a guaranteed way to ensure enough is consumed. Quietly Calves that are stressed when receiving colostrum do not absorb antibodies as efficiently as those that are calm. Colostrum is more than just a source of antibodies but also a rich source of nutrients, growth factors and hormones and switching onto milk too soon will affect gut development and future performance. Milk Feeding Once colostrum has been provided the calf should be transferred to an individual pen without the possibility of licking other calves. Nutrition at this stage should comprise of water, milk and a starter. Water is important and calves need to consume 4 to 6 litres of water per kg of dry starter feed. Growth rate prior to weaning is directly linked to milk intake (milk solid intake) and if high growth rates of 800g per day are the goal then calves need to be consuming typically 900g milk solids per day (6 150 g/l). However higher levels of milk feeding does compromise starter feed intake and to avoid a weaning check weaning must take place gradually over a 2 week period. Starter feed must be offered fresh every day. Whatever the milk feeding regime, calves should only be weaned once they are consuming 2 kg of starter feed for three consecutive days. To help early rumen development and stimulate active cudding, chopped straw should be fed with an intake target of 5% of total dry matter intake. Practical Considerations 1. Account for changes in milk powder density and calibrate scoops or feeders. 2. Mix milk powder at 42 C. 3. Feed milk at 37 C. 4. Teats should be calf shoulder height. 5. Check rubber teats for wear and splits regularly. 6. Clean feeding equipment daily. 7. Buckets should be 30cm off the floor. Cold Weather A new born calf of 45kg has a lower critical temperature of 10 to 15 C depending on wind speed. Below 10 C it will need more energy for maintenance and keeping warm, otherwise growth rates and immunity will be compromised (smaller calves have a lower critical temperature). Ensure calves are bedded on plenty of clean dry straw and in an environment with no draughts. Calf jackets are a good way to keep young calves warm. Consider increasing milk solids fed for every 10 C drop in temperature increase milk solids by 100 g/day. Weaning Access to clean water and a palatable high quality starter is crucial for a smooth transition from milk to solid feeding. An 18 % protein calf starter is recommended for feeding through the milk phase and up to 3 months of age fed ad libitum along with straw. Avoid changing groups around weaning or mixing groups of different ages to minimize stress and disease transmission.

6 Birth to 12 Week Feed Guide Products Name Oil Protein Fibre Ash Key Raw Materials Whisk Skim milk, Ultra filtered whey protein Maximum Ultra filtered whey protein Astralac Ultra filtered whey protein Creamy Calf % skimmed milk Bloom Whey based milk replacer Axcelera C A high lactose pellet to increase growth rates and stimulate early rumen development Name Form Protein Starch Fibre Early Bite Yeast Calf Sprinter + Pellet Champion Calf Starter Mixture N N Example Feeding Recommendations Month calving* Bucket Feeding (days) Colostrum 150g/litre 4 litres in 2 feeds 4 rising to 6 litres in 2 feeds 6 litres in 2 feeds Gradually wean Axcelera C 150 g/day 150 g/day 150 g/day Calf Sprinter + ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib Machine Feeding (days) litres in 2 Colostrum feeds 4 rising to 6 Gradually 150 g/litre 6 litres litres wean Calf Sprinter + ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib Example Feeding Recommendations 30 Month Calving* Bucket Feeding (days) Colostrum 125g/litre 4 litres in 2 feeds 4 rising to 5 litres in 2 feeds 5 litres in 2 feeds Gradually wean Calf Sprinter + ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib ad-lib *Holstein heifers with a mature bodyweight of 700 Kg

7 12 Weeks to Service Once target age and bodyweight targets at first calving have been set the rate of growth at different stages of development should be defined. Assuming a calf is weaned at 60 days and weighing 90 kg for her to reach 658kg at 24 months of age she needs to grow at 0.85 kg/day. Because bodyweight gain is more efficient early in life than in later stages it makes sense to aim for faster growth rates early in life for example 0.9 kg/day to service. To achieve high growth rates in younger heifers, yet not over fatten them, sufficient protein must be fed in relation to the energy being supplied. However over feeding protein must be avoided as it is not only expensive but energy will be wasted used up in excreting excess waste nitrogen. The only way to know whether heifers are on target is to weigh them at regular intervals. To calve at 22 to 24 months of age heifers need to be served from 13 months of age at 55 % of their mature body weight. To minimize stress and help ensure high conception rates there should be no change in diet or housing one month prior to and one month after service. Since feed is the greatest cost associated with heifer rearing it is vital to analyse the forages being fed and formulate diets that meets the energy, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements at least cost. In addition it is important to monitor actual intakes and adjust the nutrient concentration to account for differences between actual and predicted intakes. The aim being to attain target growth rates while minimizing feed costs Service to Transition In contrast whilst it is right to achieve high growth rates during the pre-pubertal phase rapid growth rates (>1.0Kg/ day for Holsteins) during pregnancy has been associated with impaired milk production. All that needs to be done once the heifers are in calf is to achieve moderate growth rates of between 0.75 to 0.8 Kg / day to still achieve target calving weights assuming they were on target at service! Protein levels in the overall diet can be cut back to 14 % in the overall diet 1 month from calving If forage quality and availability is high and concentrate feeding is cut back it is important to supplement with essential vitamins and minerals either via Crystalyx blocks or Biomin free access minerals. Transition to Calving 3 weeks prior to calving move heifers, preferably in pairs or a small group rather than individually to the transition or dry cow group on the farm. Please refer to the Carrs Billington Booklet on Dry Cow Feeding and Management.

8 Feeding guide 12 weeks to calving Products Lifetime Rearer Nut 18.0 Heifer Rearer 21 Nut 21.0 Heifer Rearer 18 Nut 18.0 Form Protein % Description A high energy, high DUP product with a high specification vitamin and mineral premix to balance grass silage. A high energy, balanced energy source product to either be fed at high levels with straw or more moderate levels to balance low protein cereal silages. A balanced energy source product design to be fed in conjunction with silage, hay Calf Rearer Nut 16.0 A balanced energy low protein product to complement grazed grass Lifetime Blends Blend Variable Can be bespoke to precisely meet individual farm requirements. Ideal for TMR feeding. Example feeding recommendations Month Calving* Age Straw Grass silage (average) Grazing (average) Product Kg/day Product Kg/day Product Kg/day 3 6 months Lifetime Rearer 3.5 Lifetime Rearer 3.0 Lifetime Rearer months Lifetime Rearer 4.0 Lifetime Rearer 3.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer 5.0 Lifetime Rearer 3.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 3.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months to 3 weeks from calving 3 weeks prior to calving Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer 1.0 Heifers should be transferred to the farms transition diet three weeks prior to calving. Example feeding recommendations 30 Month Calving* Age Straw Grass silage (average) Grazing (average) Product Kg/day Product Kg/day Product Kg/day 3 6 months Lifetime Rearer 3.0 Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months Lifetime Rearer 4.0 Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Lifetime Rearer 2.0 Calf Rearer months Heifer Rearer Biomin minerals/ Crystalyx blocks free access 26 months to 3 weeks from calving 3 weeks prior to calving Heifer Rearer Biomin Minerals/ Crystalyx Blocks free access Heifers should be transferred to the farms transition diet three weeks prior to calving. *Holstein heifers with a mature bodyweight of 700 Kg

9 Retail Product Range Carrs Billington not only provides a complete range of feed solutions but also a comprehensive range of retail products some examples of which are detailed below. Supplements Boluses and Drenches Animal Health Animal Husbandry Livestock Handling Equipment Disinfectants Bacto Col Range Rehydration products, colostrum replacers, Crystalyx Blocks, Easy Breather, Minerals, Salt Blocks, Molichop in bags Bovi-Trace, Bovithrive.etc. We have AMTRA qualified SQP s to advise in choosing the correct product for scour treatment, vaccines, wormers etc. Calf milk machines and accessories, buckets, scoops, brushes, teats, Calf Jackets, Weigh bands. Tags - We have a full range of animal identification options available in our Country Stores Calf and cattle weighers, crushes, races, pen divisions, hutches. Diamond range, Fam 30, Sorgene 5, Stalosan, Carrs Billington Cubicle Care, Kencox etc Bactoscour, Bacto-col Calf Plus, Bacto-Col Calf Paste, Bacto- Col Antibody Capsules Environmental Requirements The quality of the housed environment has a major impact on calf and heifer welfare, productivity and economic performance. Please refer to AHDB Booklet Dairy Housing a best practice Chapter 16 youngstock and heifers Disease Prevention Disease prevention is the cornerstone to any youngstock rearing system and every farm has its own challenges so please ask your own vet for a specific action plan.

10 Cost of Heifer Rearing There are three main component costs to heifer rearing: 1. Calf Cost - Dairy Co estimated the "true cost" of getting a dairy calf born to be Variable costs 3. Overhead costs AHDB in a recently funded study (Boulton 2015) calculated the average cost of rearing a dairy heifer replacement was Farmers that calve their heifers down at 22 to 24 months of age rather than 28 months tend to have higher purchased feed costs but significantly lower overhead costs. The other benefit of calving heifers at a younger age at the right weight is the positive effect on lifetime milk yield. Please use the table below to calculate your own costs CALF Opportunity cost of a heifer calf (plus allowance for mortality eg 8 % ) per heifer reared FEED Calf Milk Starter Feed Rearer Feed Other Purchased Feed OTHER VARIABLE COSTS Bedding Veterinary Forage Other OVERHEAD COSTS Labour Machinery Fuel, Electricity Rent Land and Building maintenance Sundry share costs Depreciation Interest Other TOTAL Please ask Carrs Billington if you want to record the cost of heifer rearing on your farm.

11 References Dairy calf and heifer rearing for optimum lifetime performance Dr Alex Bach 46th University of Nottingham feed Conference 2014 Penn State Extension DAS Review of recent research investigative effects of calf feeding programs on first lactation performance Jud Heinrichs and Coleen Jones Soberon F, Rafferento, R.W. Everett and M.V. Amburgh 2012 Early life milk replacer intake and effects

12 Carrs Billington Agriculture carrs-billington.com North - October 2017