The Great Grain Divide
Talk to heifer growers (contract or dairy farmers) and they have plenty of opinions. One of these is about the form of the grains fed post-weaning. At one point are the "Textured" folks; at another point are the "Pellet" folks; and at a third and final point are the "Shelled Corn" folks.
They all believe the other two kind of starter grain feeding is not nearly as good as theirs. "Calves will eat more of my grain" or "Calves find my grain more palatable."
At the recent Discover conference (May 28-31) a University of Minnesota researcher, Hugh Chester-Jones, reviewed results comparing intakes of 4 rations that represent two of the options above.
The rations were (free-choice or ad lib. access):
1. 18% crude protein (cp) texturize grain mix without hay
2. 18% cp texturized grain mix with hay
3. 16% cp protein whole corn with pellet grain mix without hay
4. 16% cp protein whole corn with pellet grain mix with hay
All four of the rations were consumed by the heifers at the same rate over the first 14 days in the transition pens. Intakes peaked around 10 days at approximately 6 pounds per head per day.
I noted an interesting little blip in the data. Have you ever had the feeling that grain intakes drop off for a few days when calves are moved from individual to group pens?
Heifers on all four rations dropped from about 6 pounds per head daily to an average of just under 4 1/2 pounds per day. That is a 27 percent drop!
The heifers took 5 days to come back up to the "pre-move" intake levels.
So, I concluded that compared to these research results the drop in grain intakes of my heifers at Noblehurst Farm were quite normal - the drop and rebound behavior was not the result of anything I was doing wrong. [By the way, over 12 years I was never able to prevent this temporary dip in grain intake - that would be around 5,000 heifers.]