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Save on calf rearing this season

Save on calf rearing this season

Weaning calves from milk when they reach 65 kilograms could add to the bottom line if a good value meal and pasture is added to the diet early on – especially when it comes to replacement heifers.

Wendy Morgan, Nutrition and Quality Manager at animal nutrition company SealesWinslow said the cost of rearing calves can be reviewed by farmers who are looking for ways to make cost savings this season.

“To wean from milk, start weighing calves at six weeks of age. An animal can be weaned once it has reached 65 kilograms, has an obvious rumen (a pot belly when looking at it from behind) and is eating 1 kilogram of meal for three consecutive days,” she said.

Wendy says the whole feed programme can be evaluated.

“The process of moving calves from milk (highest cost feed) to meal (mid cost) to pasture (cheapest feed option) can be made more economically efficient. The key is selecting a formulated calf feed which will encourage early intake, maximise rumen development and allow the calf to be ready to digest pasture as quickly as possible.”

“Heifer replacements influence future milk production so giving them the best start will assist them to be efficient when in the milking herd. In calves, starch is crucial for the development of rumen papillae and formulated calf meal contains a balance of starches to help maximise this growth.”

Premium calf meal also contains sugars, protein and minerals which contribute to optimum skeletal growth and muscle development. Feeds which are not specifically targeted for calves may not include these nutrients, or may not be in the correct proportions for the calf.”

Wendy said if animals are not weighed regularly to identify a good weaning weight, they may reach a weight of 80 kilograms or more while still on milk.

“There is no need to keep providing milk through to this weight range when the animal could have been weaned on to meal and pasture,” she said.

“Four litres of milk is equivalent to 1 kilogram of meal in feed value for a calf. At a $3.85 payout, calf meal at, for example $850 per tonne, costs 85 cents per kilogram of dry matter. The equivalent four litres of milk at 8 percent solids equates to 0.32MS and costs $1.23 per feed. Even at a below average payout, income is optimised by leaving milk in the vat,” said Wendy.


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