2013-04-05 xml
Trials Show Value of Nutrition in Calf Health and Performance

Respiratory infections in calves is costly and a sick calf is estimated to cost at least £50 in lost growth, additional labour, treatment and an extended rearing period, according to Provimi’s species technology manager Norman Downey.

The remainder of the group of calves can be affected too, by as much as £30 per calf in lost income resulting from poor performance.

Norman Downey

Norman Downey

Respiratory infections in calves are fairly common and are typically caused by viruses, bacteria or a mycoplasma. “It used to be common to adopt a blanket approach to treatment, whether or not they were showing symptoms,” says Mr Downey. “But growing concerns on the use of antibiotics in animal production and the expensive of treating all animals has caused producers to think twice on methods of treatment.

“In addition, and most importantly, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has now banned the use of calf milk replacers containing antibiotics for the treatment of respiratory infections. Of course there will be cases antibiotic treatment of individual calves is appropriate but producers can also help to guard against infections and improve overall calf health by using more advanced feeds.” More attention should be paid to the period following colostrum feeding and up to weaning. “High quality nutrition can help improve intakes and the immune status in this period.

Provimi trials have shown that improved nutrition, leading to improved rumen development, in the weeks up to weaning can improve calf performance. Its milk replacer Provimilk with the gut conditioning package NuStart was compared with a control without a gut conditioning package, a milk replacer with in feed antibiotics and two similar milk replacers with gut conditioning packages – Product X and Product Y.

Results, shown in Figure 1, demonstrates the benefits of including NuStart that contains essential oils, probiotics, prebiotics and antioxidants. “The milk replacer containing NuStart outperformed all treatments in this study,” adds Mr Downey, “Growth rates improved by 25% and feed intake was also 20% better than the other products. Similar results were achieved where NuStart is included in Provimi’s calf creep feed. This gives the calves a better start in life.”

Comparison of milk replacers on calf performance

Figure 1 Comparison of milk replacers on calf performance

NuStart has been developed to promote intestinal development and stimulate feed intake which helps to boost immunity and increase growth rates. “Combined with good housing and management, this can lead to faster growth rates and stronger, healthier calves that reach maturity earlier. The end result is lower rearing costs and for dairy heifers this all helps the drive towards 24 month calving.”


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