Pre and post-weaning growth as a result of Lifestart feeding schedules will improve future growth and health
Research has shown that the quality of nutrition has a strong influence on pre-weaning growth[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9] of dairy calves. As a result, the age at which heifers can be inseminated for the 1st time will go down.[6,10] Dr. Ariane Bolt studied the effect of pre-weaning and post-weaning growth in the first year of life on future performance.
Key take home messages
Additional growth in calves on an intensive feeding schedule is correlated with improved health parameters
Calves with a higher average daily gain as a result of an intensive calf feeding schedule calve earlier as a result of a better fertility
A group of 1,435 calves fed intensively in the period up to weaning at day 63 was divided into a group of animals that had an average daily growth of < 800 gram per day (moderate growth group) and a group of animals that grew > 800 grams per day (high growth group).
Calves in the high growth group had less diarrhoea (15.8% vs. 22.3%), less pneumonia (24.9% vs. 25.9%) and required less antibiotic treatments (35.4% vs. 40.7%). The high growth group did however have a higher percentage of umbilical infections (2.5 vs. 1.8%).
The age at first insemination was 0.3 months lower in the high growth group (p=0.02), but there was no difference in the number of inseminations between the groups. Age at first calving was 0.5 months lower in the high growth group (p=0.05).
Differences in production during the first and subsequent lactations were not found.
If calves on an intensive feeding schedule are divided into a group with a moderate growth level and a group with high growth level, the calves with the better growth will have less disease problems and a better fertility. Differences in milk production were not significant in this study.
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