Friday, January 24, 2014

Getting More Energy Into Babies
What a challenge. Very cold weather and cold housing for calves. When this happens calves more than four weeks old just eat more - offer them more milk, give them free-choice calf starter and make sure they have access to water.
How to get more energy into babies? How to meet the nutritional needs of calves less than ten days old when temperatures drop to near zero F?

Drawing on my calf work at Noblehurst Dairy and consulting contacts I have observed very large differences in eating behavior among young calves (less than ten days old). Perhaps up to half of my calves this age would drink even 2.5 to 3 quarts in twice daily feedings. These animals were not my problem.

In contrast I had to struggle to get maybe up to a third of them to get them to drink four quarts fed in two feedings about 9 hours apart. For a couple of winters I fed whole milk (dry matter fat level above 30%). That way about four quarts just barely met maintenance needs. 
Other years I was feeding 20-20 milk replacer. During very cold weather that takes at least five quarts to barely meet maintenance requirements for a 90 pound calf. This is when I started feeding these youngest calves three times a day. That was 7:00 am (2 qts),11:30 am (1 qt), and 5:30 pm (2 qts). This strategy worked better when I increased the powder concentration to about 15% solids (10 ounces of powder makes 2 quarts of milk replacer).

One of my clients feeds 15% solids 20% fat milk replacer with three-quart nursing bottles. They offer a full bottle to all calves twice a day. The young calves that do not clean up their morning bottle are offered an additional quart at mid-day. Most of these "laggards" will drink the noon-time bottle. Just like in the morning, these "laggards" will only drink 2/3 to 3/4 of the PM bottle as well. Their experience is that by around 7 to 10 days these "laggards" come around and start cleaning up both bottles daily.

In sum, it takes extra attention to get the "laggards" among the youngest calves to drink enough to meet even their maintenance energy needs during very cold weather. For a review of ideas for cold weather feeding click HERE .


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