Summitholm Holsteins Joe Loewith and Sons Ltd

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1 Summitholm Holsteins Joe Loewith and Sons Ltd Shur-Gain On-Farm Trial Evaluation of Optivia Calf Program Shur-Gain and Yantzi Feed Mill conducted an on-farm evaluation trial at the farm of Joe Loewith and Sons Ltd (Summitholm Holsteins) to evaluate the Shur-Gain Optivia Calf Program and the performance of calves fed the Shur-Gain Advantage Milk Replacer and 22% Express Calf Starter. The main objective of the trial was to: Double the birth weight of the calf by 56 days (8 weeks) of age Maintain an ADG of >.85 kg/calf/day Compelling research from Cornell University would indicate that these two parameters are highly correlated with future milk production expectations during the 1 st and subsequent lactations. The on-farm trial was started in October 2010 and concluded in January, The calves were reared in well-bedded calf hutches on a gravel yard. The feeding and measuring protocol were as follows: Calves were weighed by scale weekly (every Saturday). Birth weight was determined as the initial weight. Shur-Gain Advantage Milk Replacer solution was mixed at 150 grams/litre and fed at 9 litres/calf/day. (3 litres 3x/day). The milk replacer solution was decreased to 3 litres at the beginning of the 6 th week and fed at this level for 2 weeks. 22% Express Calf Starter was fed daily with leftovers removed and transferred to a sealed rubber container. Refusals and intakes were weighed and calculated weekly. Calves had access to water.

2 Findings The variation in initial weight (BW) was quite high 32 kg BW for the smallest calf and 54 kg BW for the largest calf. The initial weight had little bearing on the overall goals of doubling the birth weight or achieving an ADG of >0.85 kg but could have an impact on the amount of colostrum the newborn calf could consume within the 1 st hour. The current recommendation for colostrum feeding is to feed 4 litres of colostrum to the new born calf within the 1 st hour to ensure optimum growth and heifer performance. This may prove a challenge for smaller calves if the calves are offered a nipple bottle. The recommendation of feeding 10% of the birthweight to the newborn calf may be more reasonable for the smaller animals. The 25 calves on trial achieved an average ADG of kg above the goal of 0.85 kg. The variation among the group of calves ranged from 0.64 to 1.12 kg ADG (see chart): ADG #2201 #2200 #2199 #2198 #2196 #2195 #2194 #2193 #2192 #2191 #2190 #2189 #2188 #2187 #2186 #2185 #2184 #2183 #2182 #2181 #2180 #2179 #2178 #2177 #2176 The goal of doubling the birthweight was also achieved with an average rate of The variation amongst the 25 calves was from 1.74 to 2.32 (see chart): Who Doubled Birth Weight? #2201 #2200 #2199 #2198 #2196 #2195 #2194 #2193 #2192 #2191 #2190 #2189 #2188 #2187 #2186 #2185 #2184 #2183 #2182 #2181 #2180 #2179 #2178 #2177 #2176

3 The two main objectives of the on-farm trial (doubling the birthweight and achieving an ADG of 0.85 kg) were achieved in a cold weather environment. Cold weather increases the maintenance energy requirements for the young calf at the expense of energy required for potential growth. This illustrates the need for feeding higher levels of milk replacer solution (>8 litres) during the winter months. The variation in both the ADG and doubling the birthweight can be expected due to inherent differences between calves. The wide variation was unexpected and needed to be explored to understand the potential limitations of the feeding program. The weaning strategy at Summitholm Holsteins was to reduce the milk replacer solution from 9 litres/day to 3 litres/day at 6 weeks of age. The intention of this weaning strategy was for the 6 week old calf to rapidly increase the consumption of the 22% Express Calf Starter due to the abrupt decrease in milk replacer solution consumption. Further examination of the data demonstrated that a large number of calves decreased in ADG during this time period. This reduction in ADG lasted for 1-2 weeks and resulted in the overall goals not being met for some of the calves on the trial. The consumption of calf starter is highly influenced by the amount of milk or milk replacer solution that a calf is consuming. This is especially true in the 1 st 4 weeks of the young calf s life. The average consumption pattern for Summitholm Holsteins indicated that limited calf starter was consumed during this time period (see chart): Daily Calf Starter (Weeks 1-8) The digestion and fermentation of grain is the primary driver for rumen development. The butyric acid, produced during the fermentation process, stimulates the development of the rumen villi. The rumen villi are the primary absorption mechanism for nutrients derived from the fermentation process. Calves that have been fed high levels of milk or milk replacer solution and then have been abruptly weaned may not have adequate rumen development to properly digest calf starter. These calves may go backward during this period until the rumen development has progress to a point where the calf can digest grain. This initial rumen development period may take 2-3 weeks.

4 Calves need to be consuming calf starter at adequate levels for longer periods of time to ensure adequate rumen development. The Summitholm on-farm trial demonstrated that feeding high levels of milk replacer solution (>9 litres) effectively displaced calf starter consumption during the 1 st 4-5 weeks. Encouraging optimum calf starter consumption under high milk feeding situations revolves around three key areas: Step-down or gradual weaning Textured versus pelleted calf starter Feeding chopped hay or straw Step-Down Weaning Dr. Dan Weary from UBC has stated that the step-down method of weaning is the preferred weaning strategy when feeding high levels of milk (>6 litres). The step-down method is described as ad lib milk feeding early in a calf s life, followed by a step-down process of restricted milk intake until weaning One recommendation is to full feed milk replacer (8-10 litres) during the 1 st 4 weeks of the preweaned phase. At week 5, reduce milk replacer solution levels by 1/3 rd. At week 7, reduce the levels again by 1/3 rd. After the completion of the trial, Summitholm Holsteins has introduced a step-down process as follows: Step-Down Weaning Milk Replacer Solution Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 High Growth Phase Weaning Phase

5 Textured Calf Starter Recent research from J.C. Porter from the University of New Hampshire examined calves that were fed either a textured coarse ration or a pelleted ration. The research indicated that: ADG and starter intake (0-8 weeks) was higher for textured calf starter versus pelleted calf starter 1st week to observe ruminating and % ruminating was higher for textured versus pellets Using a textured ration may improve calf starter intake over pelleted ration, especially in high milk feeding situations. Chopped Hay or Straw Using a textured ration may prevent the onset of parakeratosis. The coarseness of the grain may act like a scrub brush to stimulate and clean the rumen villi leading to improved nutrient absorption. The same theory applies to feeding finely chopped straw or hay. The abrasiveness of the fibre will encourage healthy rumen villi production and improved nutrient absorption. A study conducted by Dr. Alex Bach demonstrated that when pre-weaned calves had access to chopped straw they consumed more calf starter then calves that did not have access to chopped straw. Providing access to finely chopped dry hay or straw may lead to improved calf starter intake and increased ADG. Conclusion Feeding levels of milk replacer that are higher than traditional levels (4 litres) will lead to improved growth rates of the young calf. The higher growth rates and the ability to double their birth weights is highly correlated to future milk production. If higher milk replacer solution feeding levels are introduced, then it is imperative to design an effective weaning strategy to ensure proper rumen development. The trial also demonstrated that feeding higher levels of milk replacer solution during winter months (cold environment) is crucial if weight gains are to be maintained.

6 Special thanks to Ben Loewith and Laura Shuurman and all of the staff at Summitholm Holsteins for all of their support during this trial. Special thanks to Celeste Cook and Russ Huber and the Staff at Yantzi Feed for all of their support in conducting the trail

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