When you feed more calves grow more
The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association group toured Synergy Dairy in Pulaski WI today, Thursday, April 3, 2014.
Calves that were weaned in March this year at 56 days averaged 2.3 pounds a day gain. Recall that the weather here in Wisconsin in January-March was very, very cold.
Why did these calves gain at that rate when I know of other dairies that the calves gained barely 0.5 pounds a day during the same months?
They feed three times a day. They have a "step-up" program to work the calves up to 3 gallons per day by the time they are 3 weeks old. They add protein to the whole milk to achieve a 1:1 ratio between protein and fat. The total solids as fed is 15%. They have a "step-down" program at weaning time that cuts the total volume of milk to 1/2 for a week before milk feeding stops. Calves are usually consuming 5 pounds of calf starter grain daily at full weaning. All calves have ad lib. water and calf starter grain from day 2 in the hutches during all seasons of the year.
Calves go from hutches to small groups on a grain and water ration for a month. After that the owner gradually introduces roughage (good quality grass hay) until at 5 months they transition to a TMR that is formulated for young heifers.
Data from other heifers on this dairy show that average daily gain at 12 months is 2.1 pounds. They are calving in at less than 24 months and milking at roughly 85% of the mature cows.
Just another case where if you feed more the calves grow more.