Monday, November 18, 2019

Avoid Teaching Calves to Slug Feed Starter

Amazing as it may seem, research (Univ. British Columbia) has demonstrated that habits learned as calves frequently carry over into later life - even to adulthood. 

One of the habits (and not a good one) is slug feeding.

You may say, "But, I never teach my calves to slug feed calf starter."

But, empty starter grain pails do just that. Calves learn quickly to deal with empty grain pails. "Eat up! There may not be more!" When we allow the calf starter grain pails to go empty we are signally to calves to "eat up in a hurry" when we next feed grain.

Of course it makes sense to feed at a rate close to consumption. That way we minimize the amount of grain we have to dump.

With my own calves my practice with calves eating grain regularly was to feed at a rate that the pail was never empty (if possible). "Yes," now and again a calf fooled me and licked the pail clean. I worked hard to dump grain pails twice a week in order to avoid wet grain and spoilage. This "left-over" grain went to an older heifer pen. My 6 to 8 week old calves on reduced milk rations usually were eating nearly 5 to 8 pounds per day so the challenge often was to provide enough grain so the buckets did not run out completely.

This management protocol does assume that you do not just fill a grain pail half full or more when the newborn calf goes into her pen (hutch). 

By the way, remember that in order to optimize grain intake calves need free-choice water all seasons of the year.

No comments: