The importance of energy in calves
The importance of energy for your herd is clear to you, but how do you optimise the energy balance of calves? In this article, we will discuss the most important topics concerning energy and metabolism for your calves with our Territory Managers.
Energy is very important to cattle and is the body’s fuel. The available energy is distributed based on priority processes. Therefore, if there is too little energy intake or energy allocated to health challenges, there will be (negative) consequences. These include reduced performance in terms of growth and development, immunity, fertility as a mature cows and production later in life as a lactating cow. It is therefore important that your calves always have sufficient energy, both for their development, health, production and for the work satisfaction of you as a dairy farmer.
Energy requirements for calves
Young animals need energy for body maintenance, skeletal, muscular and organ development and to build up active immunity. In addition, a lot of energy goes into thermoregulation. Due to the large surface area of the skin in relation to the volume of the calf, maintaining the body temperature is more difficult for a calf than for a cow and requires more energy. In addition, the optimisation of water balance is a critical point in the rearing process.
“A golden tip for an optimal water balance is to ensure that a calf receives at least 10% of its body weight in fluids per day. This is crucial for building up the immune system and its functioning,” says Anna Hodgson, Territory Manager NorthEast Waikato.
Giving calves the best start possible
To support calves in their first two weeks of life proactively, AHV recommend to give calves 2 x 25 grams or 1 x 50 grams per calf of OptiStart powder, mixed in their colustrum and milk. This powder helps calves bridge their immunity gap (between passive and active immunity) and supports their digestive health. This way all energy can flow into their growth and development instead of fighting health challenges. Obviously, good hygiene practices, adequate housing and handling practices in the first two weeks of life are also important.
As part of AHV’s Calf Health Plan, in addition to OptiStart, 2 x 10 grams or 1 x 20 grams of Respi powder per calf is recommended in weeks 3 and 4 of life. This will support their respiratory system and keep their lungs clean (important to be able to deal with heat in their adult life when they need to be panting to remove heat from their body!). Again, this enables energy to flow into growth and development rather than fighting health challenges.
When to use AHV Booster Powder on calves?
To stimulate the development of your calves optimally, the third component of AHV’s proactive Calf Health Plan is Booster powder. In situations where challenging situations can be expected, such as weaning, moving, transport or during hot or cold periods, we recommend mixing 50 grams of AHV Booster Powder with water or milk twice a day, or sprinkled on their solid feed. Preferably one week before and after the expected moment of stress.
To support calves that are having a hard time in challenging situations, we recommend probing your calves with AHV Booster Powder. This can be done two or three times a day with two litres of lukewarm/hot water and 100 grams of powder. Probing will regulate the water balance, give an energy boost, stimulate the functioning of the liver and contribute to the optimum intestinal health of the calves. If probing is not an option, you may choose to administer 1/3 of an AHV Booster Paste.
Important focal points for calves
A critical moment for calves is the time of weaning. This is when you notice that the calves’ intake of crude protein is too low and they often look dull in their hair and/or have a drooping belly. This is an important signal to take action. In such situations we recommend the administration of AHV Booster Powder, which will give them extra energy and make them eat quickly. Part of AHV’s proactive Calf Health Plan is to give calves 100 grams of Booster powder sprinkled over the feed as top-dress from 7 days pre-weaning until 7 days after weaning. If this is not done, there is a risk of stunted development in your calf. If your calf does not grow for seven days, growth retardation of seven kilograms is he result. This not only affects the calf’s health, but also the time when you can start inseminating and her rumen development. The latter will impact her capacity as a lactating cow to take in feed and turn this into milk.
Undersized heifers have more calving difficulties, produce less milk and have greater difficulty getting back into calf. When lactating, they compete poorly with older cows for feed and because they are still growing, will use feed for growth rather than for producing milk. They are more likely to be culled for poor milk yield and/or infertility. – John Roche
Heifers that were 68 kg heavier at first calving reported a 5-7% increase in milk, milk fat, and milk protein production during the first lactation (Macdonald et al. 2005) – Heifer rearing to optimise farm profitability – John Roche“The consequences of challenges for calves are often underestimated. They long term impact of suboptimal calf rearing is real. There is one simple rule that I apply when rearing calves, and that is: limit the number of potential challenging moments to a maximum of one per week! Preferably none, of course, but that is not a realistic expectation. Limiting it to one moment will make a very positive contribution to the health of your calves,” says Anna Hodgson, Territory Manager NorthEest Waikato.
AHV Booster in beef calves and heifers
There are also many farms that have beef calves. Because transport is a potentially stressful situation, we always recommend mixing 100 grams of AHV Booster Powder with one? Two? litre of water or milk before transport and after transport. This increases the chance of sufficient energy, a good moisture balance and therefore a healthy veal calf.
In addition to calves, we also have a separate recommendation for heifers. For heifers, we recommend feeding a 50-75g topdress once a week. From the age of one year, a heifer may also take a complete AHV Booster Paste. We recommend giving heifers a Booster bolus 1-2 weeks from start of mating. It is important that the water is refreshed every day.
AHV (Animal Health Vision) is the global leader in quorum sensing-powered animal health solutions and advisory services, giving #PowerToTheFarmer to optimise their animal health. Since opening in New Zealand February 2022, AHV has tailored a range of protocols to New Zealand farming challenges to power herd longevity, productivity and profitability. Reach out to your local Territory Manager or call AHV New Zealand at 0800 424 869 to learn more about how AHV can support your farm.
These products are mentioned:
AHV Opti Start Powder
AHV Booster Powder
AHV Booster Paste
Get in touch!
Would you like to be visited by an Territory Manager to discuss the health challenges on your farm together? Our AHV Territory Manager will be happy to visit you to jointly assess the health of your cows and come up with appropriate farm-specific advice.
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