Help Freshly Weaned Calves Keep Their Appetite

Weaning can be a stressful time for calves, but starting on a transitional feed designed to get calves eating during times of reduced appetite can help their long-term performance.

Research conducted by Oklahoma State University suggests that newly received calves can have low intake with lower requirements for protein. However, calves with severely depressed intake probably have greater protein needs. A proper transitional formula helps mitigate these issues.

Consider the amount of protein, energy, vitamins, and trace minerals calves 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 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 here is to create consistent patterns of intake, resulting in consistent patterns of daily rumen pH change that maintains rumen and animal health. 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:

  1. Clean plate. If there is feed left in the bunk, calves need to be allowed to clean the plate before new feed is offered. Every pen needs to have a clean feed bunk at least once a day.

  2. 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 for water or rest.

  3. Plus/minus 15 minutes. Calves like routine and knowing what to expect. They don't like surprises, as this can make them 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. Our feed experts are standing by to help you select the right product, if you need help, so give us a call or stop by anytime!


NOTE: This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.

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