Converting Calves Into Full Functioning Cows
There are vast amount of information we have regarding calves nowadays. However, statistics showed that around 17% of calves and heifers fail to enter the production stream. There are still room for improvement.
Transition from monogastric to ruminant animal
Smooth transition from a monogastric to ruminant animal with minimal loss in growth requires sufficient size and development of the reticulorumen for efficient utilization of dry and forage-based diets.
There are several aspects in this transition. One area of focus receiving a lot of attention is how the rumen is colonized by micro-organisms.
It is well known that young ruminants posses no anaerobic microbial population in the rumen.
We also know that microbes have to colonize the rumen for the physiological development of the rumen and for the animal to convert food into products it can use for maintenance and production.
studies have shown that the establishment of a complex microbial ecosystem is a long process and depends on many factors such as genetic, age, management and feeding conditions.
Questions arise such as, is it possible to interfere with this or is it entirely up to genetics?
Research has conclude that nature of solid foods, weaning method and management factors could affect microbiome in developing calves.
This means that we do have some control over this process.
One of the studies showed that each adult cow has a core set of rumen microbes specific to that animal and variable among animals, regardless of differences in adult diets.
The study concluded that host animal can quickly re-establish its characteristic ruminal pH and VFA concentration despite dramatic pertubation of its ruminal microbial community.
Another research suggested that the period when calves transition from liquid to solid feed may provide a window for microbial programming to manipulate the core of rumen microbiome.
This shows that at weaning, and based on your diet, there is potential to program your calves' rumen bacteria population to be more adapted to higher corn silage or haylage diets.
The researchers then concluded that more effort needs to be done involving animal management, nutrition and microbiology to explain the factors affecting the rumen microbiome in calves.
In the meantime, the basics of managing calves should be applied, such as providing good quality colostrum, delivered in a consistent manner, sufficient milk and fresh water, keeping the calves dry and comfortable, encouraging the calves to transition from milk to solid feed with gradual weaning strategy.