Monday, December 3, 2012

Young heifers and cold weather

I was on a farm on Friday to look at transition-age (10-12 weeks) heifers. The problem was pneumonia.

One of the management challenges is feeding enough to meet both the maintenance and growth needs of these young heifers. While they were on milk (two gallons pasteurized milk per day per calf) and eating 4 to 5 pounds of calf starter grain they were healthy.

Once weaned and still being fed 4 to 5 pounds of grain per day they were energy challenged in below freezing weather. Only one-third of the bunk space was used for feeding grain (only 3 of the 6 heifers could eat at one time). Some grain was poured over a pile of very low-quality, late-maturity hay (truly heifer hay).

Moral of the story:
  • At this stage of development feed enough calf grower grain to meet both maintenance and growth needs (grow 1.7 -  2 pounds/day). I recommended free-choice feeding. I expect consumption will even out at around 7 lbs. per day per heifer.
  • Sweep manger clean each day so grain intake can be monitored roughly.
  • Take away the hay - no more nutrition than straw.
  • Spread the grain out over full width of manger.
Farm has no high quality hay to feed. But,  high quality haylage is being fed to cows. I suggested the farm start feeding this roughage at the rate of (as-fed) 2 lbs. per heifer per day for the first 7 to 10 days. 


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