Calf Starter Grain Feeding Failure
Sometimes I feel like I have been shouting down a well when I give advice.
A client has been having some difficulty achieving his weaning growth goals. I walked the hutches looking especially at the grain pails.
My advice has been to feed only a handful of pelleted calf starter grain (they prefer to use pellets for mechanical feeding rather than textured feed) when the calf is placed in a hutch about one day of age. Then this grain can be refreshed at least twice a week until the calf begins to eat starter.
So, on this walk through I found that all the youngest calves had grain pails that were at least one-half full. Really, at least one-half full.
When the worker that feeds grain was asked about the directions he had received they were "be sure the calves do not run out of grain." He was never given instructions about the "handful" amount and changing the grain at least twice a week for the youngest calves.
They were simply providing "lots" of pellets on day one. Eventually, the feeder would notice that some of the pellets were disappearing. When that happened, the bucket was "topped off" by adding more pellets on top of those that had been in the hutch since day one. Buckets were not emptied until the calves were weaned and moved out of the hutch.
I got an extra pail and dumped some of the pails for 4 and 5 week old calves. You are right - more that half of them had moldy grain in the bottom.
I do not have grain consumption data from these hutches - but, my advice to improve grain pail management was based on the educated guess that present calf grain pail management was depressing grain intake. And, that depressed intake was partially responsible for the lower weaning weights.
Only time will tell if my recommended practices will be adopted. Like I said at the beginning of this post, sometimes it feels like I am shouting down a well!