April 06, 2017

07/04/2017: Using botanicals to improve calf health and performance

By Dr Hassan Taweel, PhD, Msc, Global Business Development Manager Ruminants at Nutriad, Belgium

The aim of successful calf rearing is to produce a healthy calf that is capable of optimum performance throughout its life from birth through to adulthood to milking and/or finishing

The first three months of life is the most sensitive period for the young calf, with many stress factors including biological, environmental, and nutritional.

The success of this first rearing phase depends on establishing a sound calf nutrition & health program. A sound calf nutrition program revolves around early feeding of high quality colostrum and the choice of high quality milk replacer and starter ration.

Colostrum provides maternal antibodies (immunoglobulins) to protect the young calf against the common infections that it is likely to encounter in early life.

High quality fortified milk replacer and starter, support the calf to remain healthy and achieve maximum growth, which will be reflected in the calf’s future performance.

A healthy fast growing calf can produce more milk during its first lactation compared to a slow growing calf that suffered from disease during early life.

Recent meta-analysis with data from 15000 heifers, showed that a-225-kg of additional milk in the first lactation can be expected for each 100 g/d extra growth during the first two months of the heifer’s life (calf).

Calf’s health: Scouring and pneumonia
Ensuring that each calf receives sufficient high quality colostrum immediately after calving is not always easy or possible. Colostrum quality depends on many factors; age and breed of the cow, previous exposure to disease, length of the dry period and nutrition and vaccination of the dam.

Dairy cows in general produce colostrum with much lower concentration of IgG compared with beef cows (50 vs. 150 g of IgG/l).

Dairy calves with low levels of immunoglobulins have the highest incidence of diarrhea, and respiratory disease. Scours (diarrhea) and pneumonia are the main causes of calf morbidity & mortality.

The majority of calf scours are caused by six organisms: viruses such as rotavirus and coronavirus, bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella sp., and protozoa, such as cryptosporidia and coccidia. Traditionally, to overcome this, antibiotics have been used in calf nutrition (in CMR and/or starter feed).

It is known that viruses are unaffected by antibiotics, however, antibiotic treatment is usually administered to kill off any secondary bacterial infections and offer the calf the opportunity to fight the disease.

In 2007, the use of antimicrobial growth promoter for preventative purposes was banned in the EU and is under great pressure in the USA and many other countries around the world.

The use of antibiotics for preventative reasons contributes to the ever-increasing antibiotic resistance.

Read the full article HERE.

The Global Miller
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which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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