Correct management and nutrition of dry cows is crucial if your aim is to obtain:
• A healthy and vigorous calf
• Maximum dry matter intake in early lactation
• Good immunity to fight infections in both the cow and calf
• Optimum milk production in the following lactation
• Improved reproductive performance
Feeding a very good quality ‘Pre-Calver’ or ‘Dry Cow’ minerals to cows for a minimum of 6-8 weeks before calving is advisable.
[color=blue][b]Good management of dry cows:[/b][/color]-
Ensure that the cow is dried off in sufficient time to allow her calve down in a good condition. Cows that are too thin or have excess condition may have calving difficulties resulting in undue stress on the newborn calf at birth.
[color=blue][b]Hygiene in the calving area
A number of options exist for feeding colostrum to newborn calves; allowing the calf to suckle the dam, feeding with a teated bottle or feeding with an oesophageal tube. Research has shown that up to 40% of calves that are allowed to suckle the dam do not obtain sufficient colostrum intake within the required time.
[color=blue][i]Milk the cow completely & feed the calf from a bottle:[/i][/color]
The best approach is to milk out the cow and measure the volume of colostrum required by the calf and feed with a teated bottle. This increases the concentration of the antibodies in the colostrum and raises the level of antibodies absorbed by the calf. Target intake of colostrum in first feed is 10% of bodyweight (e.g. For every 20 Kg calf requires 2 Liters of colostrums). Feeding with an esophageal tube should only be a last resort if the calf does not suckle voluntarily as the milk does not reach the ‘true milk’ stomach of the calf.
[color=blue][b]Feed Colostrum for 3 to 4 days:-[/b][/color]
Even though the absorption of antibodies diminishes within the first 12 hours of birth the mother’s colostrums is rich in energy and protein and the antibodies help to enhance gut development and stop harmful ‘scour causing bacteria’ from attaching to the gut wall.
[color=blue]Provide clean water always[/color].
Milk alone does not provide enough water for the young calf so you must always provide access to clean water right from the birth of the calf.
[color=blue][i]Introduce dry calf feed in the first few days[/i][/color]
Cereals and digestible fibre helps in the rumen development, so start offering a calf starter feed. Research has shown calves prefer a larger 6 mm pellet rather than a smaller 3 mm pellet and this encourages higher intake at an early age.
Allow limited access to hay or straw at an early age. Do not introduce hay or straw as a major proportion of the diet until at least 5 weeks of age or one week before weaning. Forages increase gut fill and reduce the potential for concentrate intake, leading to ‘pot-bellied’ calves.
Gradually reduce milk feeding and wean when calves are consuming at least 1 kg of concentrates for 2 consecutive days. This increases the dry feed intake and reduces a growth check at weaning. Do not change the calf starter feed until at least one week after weaning.
[color=blue][i]Why Feed Concentrates to Calves?[/i][/color]
During the first few weeks from birth, the new-born calf depends on nutrients supplied either from cow’s milk or milk replacer. Developing the rumen of newborn calf is one of the most important areas of calf nutrition. In the past many calf rearing programmes have focused on milk and hay as the main components of the diet, but research shows that introducing concentrates to calves is critical to develop the rumen at an early age. A calf weaned with a poorly developed rumen will show a poor graph in body performance that can set the calf back for weeks after weaning.
The development of the rumen is mainly influenced by the intake of dry, concentrate feed. Studies show that feeding cereals results in the benefits in terms of rumen development, when compared with feeding forage such as hay. A product called butyric acid is produced when concentrates are fermented in the rumen and it aids the development of the rumen wall and making it more capable of absorbing nutrients from the feed. Offering calf concentrates and water from as early as three days of age ensures that the calves are eating at least 1 kilogram of concentrate before weaning from milk and it results in the improved calf performance after weaning.