Weaning can be a stressful time for calves, but by starting on a transitional feed that is designed to get calves eating when their appetite is reduced can help their long-term performance.
Research conducted by Oklahoma State University says that newly received calves can have low intake with lower requirements for protein. However, calves with severely depressed intake probably have greater protein needs.
One way to mitigate any issues when transitioning calves on feed can be to have a proper transitional formula. Consider the amount of protein, energy, vitamins and trace minerals they may need. Transitional feeds are very palatable to encourage consumption and are designed to get calves eating, bolstering their immune system and aiding digestive health.
Maximizing and adjusting the calves’ nutritional needs during stressful times can optimize their ability to perform better down the road.
Bunk management also plays a key part in a successful weaning transition. The goal is to create consistent patterns of intake by the calves, resulting in consistent patterns of daily rumen pH change that maintains rumen and animal health. Because a successful implementation of this process will minimize feed waste and maximize animal performance. As stated by Robbi Pritchard, PhD, South Dakota State University, the goal in bunk management is matching the amount of feed delivered to the amount of feed calves can handle.
Three key concepts are at the core of good bunk management:
- Clean Plate – If there is feed left in the bunk, calves need to be allowed to clean the plate before new feed is fed. Every pen needs to have a clean feed bunk at least once a day.
- Hungry but Full – Most calves show interest in eating when fed in the morning (70-90% of the calves come to the bunk). Calves don’t eat very long; within 10 to 15 minutes, many are satisfied and go to get water or rest.
- Plus or Minus 15 Minutes – Calves like routine and knowing what to expect. They do not like to be surprised with what could happen next (this can make calves anxious, nervous and stressed). A goal would be to feed the calves nearly the same time each day, plus or minus 15 minutes.
Considering these three key concepts can help intake be more consistent, resulting in less acidosis and improved performance.
Don’t let weaning be stressful; keep an appetite in your calves with a transitional feed.