A step-down weaning programme for dairy calves improves dry feed intake after weaning
Intensive milk feeding programs for calves require more time for adequate rumen development and therefore a gradual weaning process is needed. You should reduce milk feeding over a period of 3-4 weeks and not stop feeding milk earlier than 10 weeks of age. Such a programme improves dry feed intake before and after weaning. Adding forage plays a key role in supporting rumen development and health. Finally, offering clean, fresh water ad-libitum is essential.
To prepare for weaning at 10 weeks, start to reduce milk intake gradually from 7 weeks onwards. Feed milk once a day only during the last week before you finally stop feeding milk. Adding stress factors such as de-budding, moving animals, changing solid feed etc. should be avoided around the time of weaning and the period immediately afterwards.
Weaning; who's choice is leading?
Young calves require milk because their digestive system works like the digestive system of a monogastric animal. The rumen develops over time when the calf starts eating solid feed next to drinking milk. Under natural conditions, suckling calves will wean themselves, but this process takes 3-4 months and is finalised at an age of around 10 months. Dairy calves kept on farm have to make this transition in a much shorter period of time, some farmers even try to wean a calf within one week. This causes a lot of stress and puts pressure on both calf health and performance.
Kim et al weaned Holstein dairy calves at day 42, over a period of one week only and reported that stress indicator levels (haptoglobin) moved up by a factor 10.
How much calf starter must a calf eat before it can be weaned?
Calves like milk a lot. Milk is their feed by nature and it is very nutritious. The nett energy level in milk solids is around 2 times higher than in calf starter feed. This means that for every liter of milk lowered (containing 130-150g milk solids), a calf needs to consume 250 gram of calf starter feed.
Calves drinking 8 liters of milk need to consume more than 2 kg of calf starter per day before the milk provision can be stopped. Many dairy farms do however not monitor calf starter feed intake before weaning. As a result, too many calves do not consume enough calf starter at weaning and loose part of their growth potential as result of a poor weaning transition.
Review your farm performance
Working on, or managing a dairy farm is a challenging task; day-to-day routines demand most of your time. Are your operating procedures well set? Do you get the most out of your work? Tough questions if you don't have any reference at hand.
That is why we are now offering you a simple tool which gives you feedback based on results from fellow farmers around the world. It can help you find opportunities for even better results.
Science-based solutions for optimum dairy performance
Sprayfo Delta has been developed with whole milk as the biological reference, mixing the best of whole milk with the best of calf milk replacers (CMRs). Inspired by saleable milk, Sprayfo Delta is high in fat, ensuring calves gets a high level of energy. Combined with a perfect balance of vitamins and minerals calves will get the best possible start in life.
With its superior quality and a milk powder content of 50% Sprayfo Royal is a front-rank LifeStart endorsed calf milk replacer in the market. Sprayfo Royal contributes to problem-free calf rearing: calves will drink it enthusiastically, show optimal health and grow maximally.
Sprayfo Excellent is a LifeStart endorsed high-quality calf milk replacer for dairy farmers who place the highest demands on their calf rearing. With Sprayfo Excellent you can elevate concentrations to a high level: up to 150 grams per litre of milk.
Sprayfo Vitesse is a LifeStart endorsed calf milk replacer for dairy farmers who place the highest demands on their calf rearing. Sprayfo Vitesse is easily digestible and very suitable to elevate concentrations up to 150 grams per litre of milk.
A LifeStart endorsed calf milk replacer for dairy farmers who opt for a familiar and trusted formula. Your step into the professional league of calf rearing.
Sprayfo Blue provides a well-balanced blend for proper calf rearing. Sprayfo Blue is based on unique spray-dried whey-fat kernels. Following the Sprayfo feeding and mixing advice your calves will develop well in the first few months.
Sprayfo Red is a calf milk replacer for economical and secure calf rearing. Sprayfo Red is very easily dissolved due to the unique spray-drying production process. It can be fed as from day 10 after birth.
Coming soon! Sprayfo e-Vito is the first energised calf starter feed that is being develop by Trouw Nutrition. Two trials in Holstein dairy calves have been carried out to date. In the first trial, carried out by IRTA in Spain, it was established that mixing in 10% energised calf starter pellet into the normal calf starter gives optimal results.
Sprayfo Avanta Calf Starter is based on research and experience resulting in a balanced formulation and when combined with Sprayfo calf milk replacers, Sprayfo Avanta is the basis for the best rumen development for calves in the first months: facilitating trouble free weaning and the best growth up to an age of 4 months.
In case of low quality or quantity colostrum on farm, an alternative to natural colostrum can be provided with Sprayfo Colostrum: a feed material perfectly suitable to be provided as a colostrum replacer or supplement for calves.
Sprayfo HydraFit is a complementary feed for ruminants that provides the needed salts and sugars in the right amounts and in the correct ratio. HydraFit uses a method with a pending patent that allows for fast intake of water and supply of electrolytes and maintain hydration status.
Sprayfo OsmoFit is a dietetic complementary feed for calves, developed to stabilize the water and electrolyte balance to support physiological digestion in case of diarrhoea. This patent pending formula allows for effective recovery and correction of metabolic acidosis.