How to Optimize Health and production in Calf Rearing
By Dr. Anibal Nascimento – Technical Team Manager
The basis for the health and productivity of a dairy cow begins even before it is born as a calf. The first weeks after birth have a strong influence on the further development and productivity of a dairy cow. However, during this period the calf is very vulnerable and prone to health challenges.
In the period around dry-off and calving, there are many situations in which stress can be expected for the cow, including changes of group and ration. Stressful circumstances during the last phase of pregnancy can have consequences for the development of the calf. The last phase of pregnancy is a very important one for the development and growth of the calf. This phase is characterised by enhanced muscle growth and fat deposition, which contribute to rapid weight gain of the foetus and thus the calf.
Why are antibodies in colostrum milk so important?
Calves need antibodies (IgG) in order to protect themselves. During the first weeks of life, a calf can hardly produce its own antibodies and is completely dependent on the antibodies contained in colostrum milk (WUR, 2017). The quality of colostrum is crucial for a calf to strengthen its natural defence mechanism in the first weeks. If a calf does not receive the right quantity and quality of colostrum, this has a major impact on its resistance and therefore on the risk of developing challenges. “The absorption of antibodies by the calf is called passive immunity. The active immunity (own defence) of calves that have ingested colostrum only begins at the age of 4 to 7 weeks,” says Vetvice (2006).
How do you get the best quality colostrum?
To build up antibodies, the quality of colostrum, the temperature of the milk and the calf’s environment are important. “Feeding from clean buckets or bottles is one of the preconditions,” says AHV Zachary Stuckey-Local Farm Advisor.
“It is important that the calf receives milk from a healthy cow and that the milk has the right temperature during feeding: 41 degrees Celsius. Normally, the milk goes directly to the calf’s abomasum during drinking. If the temperature of the milk is not right, the calf’s oesophagus reflex does not work properly either, which causes the milk to end up in the animal’s rumen instead of in the abomasum. This disturbs the digestion of the milk and it may also start to rot (gas formation). These calves are also known as ‘rumen drinkers’, says Zachary Stuckey.
Supporting calves during start-up
AHV focuses on supporting dairy farmers for optimal animal health. With innovative solutions based on QSA (Quorum Sensing Antagonist) Technology, AHV contributes to the health, operating results and job satisfaction of a dairy farmer.
Zachary Stuckey – Local Farm Advisor says: “AHV’s Calf Start contains, among other things, antibodies from inoculated cows. By adding the Calf Start to the (colostrum) milk, you ensure that an extra high number of antibodies is released into the milk. The Calf Start ensures better growth and digestion, so that the calf gets through an immunity dip or stress moment better.” The AHV Calf Start is a dietetic feed.
Dairy farmers who use AHV solutions for calf rearing
Vermeeren dairy farm (NL) uses AHV solutions for calf rearing. “We use AHV solutions mainly to optimise calf health. Since using AHV Calf Start and AHV Respi, we have noticed an improvement in the health of the intestines and lungs of the calves. There are simply fewer challenges to the intestines and the calves start off better. AHV’s solutions are also very pleasant to use and often one application is enough.”
Dairy farmers Peter and Jolanda Bos from Nieuwkoop (NL) also use AHV’s solutions for calf rearing. “From day one and during the first weeks, we use AHV products for our calves and that works very well: the results are to our liking. With the AHV Calf Start we can manage animal health proactively and in a targeted manner. We really appreciate the commitment of our AHV farm advisor and the support from the AHV vet. We all learn from that, and that’s how you get on! “
Would you like to be able to manage the health of your calves easily and specifically, just like the dairy farmers above? Then contact your local AHV Advisor in your region for tailor-made advice.
AHV products for optimal calf rearing
AHV Respi Powder
AHV Calf Start Powder
Get in touch!
Would you like to be visited by an advisor to discuss the health challenges on your farm together? Our AHV Farm Advisor will be happy to visit you to jointly assess the health of your cows and come up with appropriate cow-specific advice.
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