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HIGH PLAINS DAIRY CONFERENCE By Cecilia Parsons FEEDING HEIFERS FOR GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT A dairy heifer’s ticket to the milk string can go unnoticed from birth to freshening. can be punched before she is born. Or, Development occurs in stages from concep- she can be doomed from the start. tion to maturity and is more highly regulated than growth. Speakers at the 2014 High Plains Dairy The seven critical phases of physiological Conference held in Lubbock, Texas, development are: brought some differing philosophies on calf Embryonic and fetal raising and health, but agreed that economics Birth to seven days will continue to play a role in calf manage- Seven days to weaning ment. Weaning to 6 months Dr. Jon Robison, 6 months to breeding consultant with JDR Breeding to 8 months of pregnancy Livestock Manage- 8 months of pregnancy to calving ment Services in Calving through the cycle of lactation, ges- Fresno, Calif., and for- tation and dry. mer dairy science in- Development occurs- or fails to occur- structor at Fresno State even as calves grow and gain. Where they are University, holds that compromised is unseen and may go unnoticed an excellent colostrum DR. JON ROBISON, until milk production or reproduction fails to management program consultant with JDR meet standards. is essential for calves Livestock Manage- Robison said that three to four weeks be- to reach their genetic ment Services fore a cow calves, hormones, growth factors potential. Managing IGF-I and IGF-II and transforming growth dry cows for optimal colostrum production, factors accumulate to form colostrum. The timely harvest and adequate intake are the first formulation continues with prolactin and glu- steps in toward success in the milk parlor. cocorticoid production overriding progester- Giving calves the benefits of quality colos- one which inhibits secretory cells and allows trum and feeding them for maximum growth for milk synthesis and secretion. and development may increase costs, but Ro- From his perspective, Robison said that bison argues that producers will see a return colostrum quality is an indicator of how well on their investment when the calves need less the close-up period is managed. What would medical intervention and more healthy heifers the quality and quantity of colostrum be if enter the milking parlor. dry cows were not crowded, and their diets “The future of a dairy is based on the ge- nutritionally balanced, he asked. Robison’s netics of today’s offspring,” Robison said. list of major stressor for dry cows included Poor management of calves on the dairy or crowded pens, poor feed quality, inadequate calf ranch can result in permanent impairment nutrient balance, low dry matter intake, over/ and early culling. Dairies cannot afford to feed under conditioning and high pathogen levels inefficient animals, he added. in cows. “We spend money developing genetics, but In 2007, he said calf feeders began report- what we do can impede our progress.” ing a difference in many newborn calves Producers need to understand the differ- across the west- they were healthy, but weaker ences between growth and development, Rob- than previous calves. With low milk prices ison noted. Growth can be measured in height at the time, he said, nutrition - including ex- and weight, but development – or lack of it pensive mineral and vitamin supplements for 12 April 2014 DAIRYBUSINESSWEST close-up cows may have been cut. Good colostrum has high dry matter or solids, at 18.5 to 25 percent, and high protein concentration at 10-17 percent. Milk fat is 4-7 percent. However, by six to ten hours after calving, colostrum begins to degrade and reabsorption begins. The average time to first milking on dairies, Robison points out, is 9.36 hours. Citing a study done at seven California dairies over a one year period, Robison said that there was a failure to adequately transfer antibodies at a rate of 36.26 percent in dairy heifers. After the establishment of an immune system stimulation, the next step forward is a dietary regime capable of sustaining growth and development. Robison said he receives calls from calf raisers and dairy producers who argue that the calves scour if fed more milk. What is happening, he added, is that the calves end up being managed for preventing scours and not for growth. There may need to be some retraining for calf ranch workers about scours, Robison said. Whether calves are being raised on whole milk, waste milk or milk replacer, calf feeders need to understand the nutritional components of what they are feeding. Waste milk can be highly variable in nutritional value as can milk replacers. Adding environmental stressors such as very hot or very cold temperatures can be even more of a challenge for calves who are nutritionally deprived. Robison says whole milk is the standard by which waste milk or milk replacers should be compared in terms of nutritional quality. When milk prices were low, Robison said he had the opportunity to sell whole milk to a calf ranch at a higher price than the creamery was offering. Feeding whole milk to calves for a year produced a lot of data on growth and production, he said. There are good quality milk replacers on Please turn to page 21
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