The efficient growth

phase to stimulate

dairy calf rumen


8-10 WEEKS

A step-down weaning programme for dairy calves improves dry feed intake after weaning

Other rearing dairy calves topics

Around calving
0-2 DAYS
3-49 DAYS
8-10 WEEKS
5 months until breeding

Intensive milk feeding programs for calves require more time for adequate rumen development and therefore a gradual weaning process is needed. You should reduce milk feeding over a period of 3-4 weeks and not stop feeding milk earlier than 10 weeks of age. Such a programme improves dry feed intake before and after weaning. Adding forage plays a key role in supporting rumen development and health. Finally, offering clean, fresh water ad-libitum is essential.

To prepare for weaning at 10 weeks, start to reduce milk intake gradually from 7 weeks onwards. Feed milk once a day only during the last week before you finally stop feeding milk. Adding stress factors such as de-budding, moving animals, changing solid feed etc. should be avoided around the time of weaning and the period immediately afterwards.

Weaning; who's choice is leading?

Young calves require milk because their digestive system works like the digestive system of a monogastric animal. The rumen develops over time when the calf starts eating solid feed next to drinking milk. Under natural conditions, suckling calves will wean themselves, but this process takes 3-4 months and is finalised at an age of around 10 months. Dairy calves kept on farm have to make this transition in a much shorter period of time, some farmers even try to wean a calf within one week. This causes a lot of stress and puts pressure on both calf health and performance.

Kim et al[20] weaned Holstein dairy calves at day 42, over a period of one week only and reported that stress indicator levels (haptoglobin) moved up by a factor 10.

How much calf starter must a calf eat before it can be weaned?

Calves like milk a lot. Milk is their feed by nature and it is very nutritious. The nett energy level in milk solids is around 2 times higher than in calf starter feed. This means that for every liter of milk lowered (containing 130-150g milk solids), a calf needs to consume 250 gram of calf starter feed.

Calves drinking 8 liters of milk need to consume more than 2 kg of calf starter per day before the milk provision can be stopped. Many dairy farms do however not monitor calf starter feed intake before weaning. As a result, too many calves do not consume enough calf starter at weaning and loose part of their growth potential as result of a poor weaning transition.

When you allow yourself a short break, we'll make it worth your while.

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