MAXX Calf Health - Delivering Real Benefits
MAXX Calf Health – Delivering Real Benefits
Calf health plays a critical role in the success of youngstock rearing programmes yet DEFRA figures suggest that as many as one in seven dairy calves and one in thirteen beef calves die during the rearing phase. Ensuring calves and youngstock receive both the nutritional support and attention they require to meet growth targets underpins long-term farm performance as Rumenco Technical Adviser, Helen Rogers explains.
“A successful calf rearing programme is the basis of every healthy, high performing herd, whether finishing cattle, suckler or dairy cows” states Ms Rogers. “Scours and respiratory disease are the major causes of calf sickness and mortality, with an estimated 57% of dairy and 63% of beef herds experiencing episodes of infectious scours and 20% of all youngstock showing signs of respiratory disease. Treating a single calf for scours costs £45 on average, with treatment of respiratory disease around £80.”
“But these costs do not take into account the additional feed, bedding and labour expenses needed to rear sick calves initially, the cost of reduced daily liveweight gain or the long-term effects of illness on future health and productivity” she notes.
Many of the pathogens that cause illness are inherent on farms meaning calf health depends on the interaction between the calf, its environment and its management.
“Good colostrum management forms the basis of disease control for the newborn calf” explains Ms Rogers. “Newborn calves are born with a completely naïve immune system so are dependent on ingesting and absorbing antibodies from their dam’s colostrum for protection from disease.”
“A simple rule of thumb is that calves require 10% of their birth weight in good quality colostrum (IgG levels over 50mg/litre) within the first six hours of life, which works out at around four to five litres.”
Antibodies absorbed from colostrum will protect the calf for around six weeks. However, it takes up to eight months for the immune system to fully mature meaning good nutrition, including a focus on minerals and vitamins, is key to encouraging immune development during this period.
“Long-term, lifetime health and performance is directly linked to nutrition during the rearing phase” Ms Rogers states. “Research shows that calves receiving the correct levels of trace elements are heavier at weaning and stay healthier throughout their lives.”
“Calves exposed to stressful situations, such as regrouping or disbudding, who are deficient in trace elements such as selenium, zinc and copper demonstrate a muted immune response in such circumstances, plus response to vaccination may also be poor” she notes. “Higher levels of these trace elements also help increase feed intake, improve feed conversion efficiency and daily liveweight gain supporting physical performance as well.”
Supplemental vitamins are vital for growing calves and youngstock. Calves are born with virtually no vitamin E and alongside vitamin C, is essential in calf diets as both are critical to immune response and development. Young calves are also unable to produce their own B vitamins until their rumen is fully developed making it essential that B vitamins are provided via the diet for efficient conversion of feed for growth.
“Youngstock rearing programmes should target growth rates of at least 0.7kg/day from birth in order to reach 55% of mature bodyweight at bulling (by 13-15 months for 22-24 month calving) for breeding heifers or 200kg liveweight when moving beef cattle onto growing diets” states Ms Rogers. “To achieve this, the development of an efficient rumen and hindgut is fundamental.”
Table 1: Calf rearing KPI’s (source: AHDB)
“Growth of healthy gut structures, including the finger-like projections that absorb nutrients, and a balanced population of rumen microbes is essential to prevent any weaning check and equip stock to be efficient feed converters throughout their lives” notes Ms Rogers. “As well as improved digestion, the gut is one of the first lines of defence against pathogens so gut heath also plays a fundamental part in helping keep calves and youngstock healthy.”
MAXX Calf Health from Rumenco is a new controlled intake lick bucket developed specifically for calves and youngstock containing unique ingredients proven to support animal health, immunity and performance to help achieve the KPIs outlined in table one.
MAXX Calf Health contains Diamond V XPC, proven to show consistent beneficial effects on daily liveweight gain, feed conversion efficiency, ruminal and intestinal development and also support stock through respiratory disease and scouring episodes. Minerals, vitamins and trace elements are included to complement starter and rearer pellets and to help support immune development, metabolism and growth. Zinpro Availa® zinc is added as it is proven to help support gut integrity as well as immune function and response at times of stress such as scouring and respiratory disease. In addition, natural decongestants from plant extracts and essential oils help support a healthy respiratory system during periods of stress or mild and damp weather such as autumn housing.
MAXX Calf Health is suitable for all dairy and beef calves from 2 weeks of age through to breeding or moving fattening cattle to finishing rations. It is formulated to be used alongside existing starter or rearer rations.
“Feeding strategies to support immune development and performance in calves and youngstock are an exciting area of development” concludes Ms Rogers. “With MAXX Calf Health, farmers now have a new dedicated calf health product, which can help support health and growth during the critical rearing period without changing their feeding system and gain the benefits to support long-term productivity in all cattle.”