Supplementing milk or milk replacer with an additive can optimize early calf health. To prevent having to treat calves later, it is important to focus on calf health from day one.
“Healthier calves in the first two weeks may become less exposed to growth setbacks and health challenges later in life, which can result in optimal growth and lower additional management expenses,” says Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products. “Supplementing a non-medicated diet with a premium health supplement can support optimal lifetime performance.”
Nutrition plays a significant role in early calf health. Whether you feed your calves whole milk or milk replacer, consider an additive that optimizes early calf health such as Sav-A-Caf® Calf Health Supplement.
Here are 3 tips to help you select an additive to get your calves off to a healthy start.
1. Choosing the right additive: A few ingredients your additive should include are: colostrum, probiotics and essential oils.
Here’s how these ingredients work:
Dried bovine colostrum
Including maternal colostrum beyond day one has been shown to help support digestive system development and immunity, resulting in optimal calf growth and overall health.
In addition to immunoglobulin G (IgG), colostrum provides many more substances that are of value to the calf such as other immunoglobulins and immunity-enhancing molecules, as well as vitamins, minerals, growth factors and hormones.
Essential oils to help support animal growth. Adding certain essential oils to milk or milk replacer has been shown to support calf health and performance by optimizing:
- Starter grain intake
- Average daily gain and body weight at weaning
- Population of beneficial bacteria in the gut
- Rumen development
Beneficial bacteria have been shown to help maintain normal intestinal microflora and optimize digestion. Bacillus strains, which are included in the Sav-A-Caf® Calf Health Supplement, optimize immune function and help fight clostridium, salmonella and E coli through competitive exclusion and other modes of action. Additionally, they function to support digestive health by helping to maintain a diverse gut microflora.
2. Mix properly: Follow the mixing instructions listed on the package of the specific product you are feeding.
Measuring the powder by weight with a hanging scale is more accurate than measuring by volume with a scoop or cup. Always mix until the powder is dissolved. When mixing large batches for multiple calves, add the powder before you’ve added all the warm water (115-120ºF), then add enough water to bring to volume. This is an important detail to achieve the intended nutrient content.
Feeding milk replacer near the calf’s body temperature (between 100-105ºF) will encourage optimal consumption. Always follow the mixing and water temperature instructions on the package for the colostrum or milk replacer product you are feeding, however, as the recommended mixing temperature will vary by product formulation.
3. Feeding tips: Proper sanitation and maintenance of the feeding equipment is also important for your calf’s health, because bacteria can grow very quickly on feeding equipment.
Use a separate bottle or pail for each calf. Wash your pails, bottles and nipples in soapy water and rinse well after every feeding. Never let mixed colostrum or milk replacer sit out for over an hour without refrigeration. Moisture creates a good breeding ground for bacteria, so allow your equipment to dry thoroughly between feedings. Check the nipples often for damage, because cracked or worn nipple holes can lead to over consumption or faster-than-usual feedings that can cause digestive upset. Cracked and worn nipples can also be more difficult to clean.
Additional areas to focus on to achieve optimal calf health include: cleanliness, ventilation and overall environment.