- Jin Gan
Managing Calf Consumption
It is crucial to feed the right amount of grain to the calves. Farmers tend to deal with hundreds of calves at the same time that are all different ages from 1 day to 12 weeks old. They each require different amount of nutrition.
Hence, one of the big challenge when managing a large group of calves with different age groups is that each calves require different amount of calf starter. The farmer must ensure that they avoid overfeeding the calf starter to younger calves while at the same time not underfeeding the older calves.
It is crucial that the farmers are aware of the amount of feed the calves consume at each stage of life in order to avoid wasting feed and to help increase growth rate. Besides that, it is also important to have ample amount of clean and fresh water readily available to the calves for optimal growth.
Young Calf (2 weeks of age)
When calves are born, they often consume very little calf starter as they usually depend more on liquid nutrition.
A common mistake among farmers is to offer too much calf starter to the young calves. However, due to the young calves consuming very little calf starter, most of the uneaten calf starter goes to waste.
As the calf starter becomes stale, it may affect the calf starter consumption. Although from the looks of it, stale calf starter seems fine to consume but in actual fact, they are not palatable any more.
Calf (3-4 weeks of age)
When the calf is aged 3-4 weeks old, there should be an increase in calf starter consumption. Hence, it is important to monitor the feed intake closely as calf growth could be hindered if insufficient nutrition is provided.
Weaning (4-8 weeks of age)
When the calf approaches weaning age, they should consume higher amounts of calf starter up to double the amount. Therefore, it is crucial that the farmers are aware of any potential spikes in consumption and are ready to provide adequate nutrition to the calves.
Grain Only Phase (8-12 weeks of age)
After the calves are weaned, they will transition into complete feeds as their source of nutrition.
Some farmers would leave the calves in a hutch or pen for up to 12 weeks of age. After that, the farmers would start to introduce a calf grower feed in order to make the transition into a diet with high fiber easier.
As the calves continue to grow, the starter consumption should continue to increase. Farmers should not limit feed intake at this point in time. It is also crucial to ensure that the calves to have starter throughout the growing phase. Some calves will slug feed when feed becomes available and this can cause bloating.
In order to ensure optimal growth, calf starter should always be clean, fresh, dry and readily available. It is important not to overfeed or underfeed the calves but instead feed the right amount of starter calf to the calves depending on their age. This would allow the calf to grow faster and thus improve the farm's profitability.