Feeding hay and meal to young calves

Feeding hay and meal to young calves
By Travis Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vet Services Raglan

Growing new-born calves well has a massive impact on how well those animals will perform once weaned, right through to when they are in the herd milking. Providing adequate amounts of milk or milk replacer is obviously critical to achieve fast growing, healthy calves, but calves require more than this to develop a functional rumen that will allow the animal to continue to perform after weaning.

Meal is an important part of this process. Not only does it provide energy and protein for the calf, but it also provides a specific form of energy to the rumen that will drive rumen growth and development that they will not receive from milk/milk replacer. If calves are not receiving meal, they will still grow well just on milk, but will experience a significant weight gain check, and may even lose weight once weaned, as the rumen has not been developed to digest grass. Calves should be eating 1-1.5kg of meal each before they are weaned to ensure rumen has been developed sufficiently.

Offering hay from day one in the calf sheds is also important. Calves will start eating fibre from a very young age, and this will stimulate the rumen to start functioning. The rumen is a large muscle, and needs physical training so that once the calf is weaned, the rumen is capable of functioning effectively to mix up the food and ruminate.

Date Added: Wednesday, 1st July 2020