Beyond the Barn: Ann’s Top Three Questions from World Dairy Expo

Posted on November 8, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Ann Hoskins, Vita Plus Calf Products Coordinator
The 2011 World Dairy Expo was a great opportunity for me to meet with many of you and learn more about what’s happening on your calf operation.  Here are the top three questions I was asked as we went “around the world of dairy in five days.”
What is the advantage of using Secure 175 versus the current Secure and will Secure 125 stay on the market?  
The advantage of Secure 175 is the higher volume of IgGs in a 550-gram dose, giving the calf more protection.  Secure 175 still mixes well in a 2-quart feeding. If you are having management challenges or more stress in the newborn calves, Secure 175 will offer the extra protection needed to reach passive transfer in those animals.
Secure 175 is an addition to the Secure family. Secure 125 is still the same great product and will remain in our product line.
What is the number one way to help calves survive cold winters?
Getting enough calories into calves is the number one concern in winter months. As outside temperatures start to decrease, the energy devoted to keeping calves warm increases.  It is estimated that calves need about 32 percent more energy between the temperatures of 25 and 55 degrees F just for maintenance. This does not account for growth and proper immune function.
One way to increase dry matter intake from milk or milk replacer is to feed more of it. The 32-percent increase needed when temperatures drop to 20 degrees F means feeding an 85-pound calf 2.5 quarts twice daily rather than the standard 2 quarts fed during the fall.
The second option applies to those farms feeding milk replacer and it is to increase the amount of powder while keeping the liquid constant. This provides higher energy intake at a constant 2 quarts per feeding.
A third option is to increase the energy density of the diet with supplemental fat. Supplemental fat products usually contain about 60 percent fat and 7 to 10 percent protein. They are added to milk or milk replacer at 0.25 to 0.5 pounds per calf per day to provide extra energy for maintenance and growth.  These products are usually easy mixing and easy for the producer to use.  Keeping the mix consistent is key to using supplemental fat.
Although sometimes hard to schedule, a very effective solution for very young calves and zero-degree weather is a mid-day feeding. This feeding is only for calves under three weeks of age or calves not consuming enough calf starter. Feed about 1.5 quarts extra – approximately a 33-percent increase over the 4.5 quarts per day normally fed during winter. Try to spread the feedings as close to an eight-hour feeding schedule as possible.  Cramming feedings too close may result in calves not finishing their evening meal and leaving the calves most susceptible during the coldest and longest part of the day.
Work with your local Vita Plus representative or dealer representative to evaluate your current feeding program and decide which option may be the best for you.
What do you think of the use of automatic calf feeders? 
I think auto-feeding has been a great technology to hit the calf feeding market. You have a lot of options in different systems.  When the operations are managed well, the calves show incredible performance. However, before making the switch, a lot of research and evaluation needs to be done. First, take a good, comprehensive look at your current program to assess your needs. Determine what your goals are – average daily gain, morbidity, mortality, labor, etc. Once you have that, you can start to look at how an auto-feeding system will fit into your current practices. Once again, ask key members of your management team (veterinarian, nutritionist, equipment expert, etc.) for advice and guidance as you look to implement a new system.

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Starting Strong - Calf Care