Prof Emily Miller-Cushon from the University of Florida will be the presenter.
Dairy calf care broadly affects behavior, including social interactions and feeding patterns, which impact calf performance and welfare. Miller-Cushon will discuss how early life experiences further influence development behaviors that persist beyond the preweaning period.
All of us have gotten the message about not overfeeding hay at the time of weaning. A research group at Penn State University set out to calibrate the percentage of hay in the ration that would give the best average daily gains. Rations varied from percentage of dry grass hay included from a low of 10 percent to increasing amounts of 17.5% to 25%. The work was done by Lucas Mitchell under the supervision of Jud Heinrichs.
Monitoring these heifers from 9 to 16 weeks of age they found as the percentage of grass hay increased the average daily gain, intake and metabolizable energy intake went down. More hay equals poorer performance.
Take home message: "Levels of grass hay greater than 10% may reduce intake and growth before 16 weeks of age. Too much forage to soon can limit intake and performance."
The 2020 version of the United States FARM minimum standards for calf care call for water feeding for newborn calves by day 3.
Recent research looked at the question of how early water feeding makes a difference in the digestive system of very young calves. The work done at Iowa State Univ. compared the species of bacteria present in the gut between calves offer water at birth and those offered water at 17 days.
Digestibility was better in the calves fed water at birth compared to those that waited until 17 days for water feeding. Additionally, even out to 5 months of age early-water fed calves compared to those with delayed water feeding had a 24 pound (11kg) growth advantage (440 lbs. vs. 416 lbs, 199.5kg vs 188.7kg)
With my own calves I fed 1 quart (about 1 liter) of fresh water after both morning and evening feeding. It's hard to recall exactly, but if my memory is accurate some of the calves were regularly consuming an observable volume of water by the end of the first week.