Get calf feed requirements right early on to stimulate rumen and bag profits
We are currently in the middle of the peak calving period and all classes of calves are meeting strong demand to fulfill the improving export trade and strong local demand.
The price of calves and inputs are significantly higher than they have been in recent years, which means greater attention needs to be paid to getting the young animal off to the best possible start.
If selling young calves, apart from the breed and sex of the calf, the animal's appearance will have a huge influence on its sale price. Ragged, poorly done calves will never command a satisfactory price.
Calves are not born with the rumen function of older animals, so stimulating the rumen from an early age will set it up for the rest of its life. The new calf's true stomach (abomasums) only functions in the early stage of life, so developing the rumen as early as possible by including the correct long fibre and concentrate will reduce the amount of whole milk or replacer required up to weaning.
Calves are generally traded at the 14 -21 day stage, so a lot of the early nutrition management is outside the control of the farmer who eventually rears the calf.
Calves that are receiving whole milk or milk replacer need a suitable concentrate and a fibre source that will encourage liveweight gain and skeletal development. Milk replacer for young calves should be high in protein -- 21pc plus -- and contain good energy and trace element levels.
Hay is generally seen to be the preferred long fibre source but clean, fresh barley or wheat straw is significantly better than most hays. I advise the use of straw regularly without any problem, and the appearance of the calves and subsequent performance supports its use.