Cattle rearing is a profitable and multi-billion dollar investment that has made meat and milk available worldwide. Over decades cattle rearers have put in more effort in sourcing for calves, nutrition and improve on their rearing management so that the animals can achieve full genetic potential.
Farmers must know that the first three months of a calf’s life are essential as the growth rate achieved in this period will determine lifetime performance of the animal.
Farmers need to take note the following guidelines for a successful rearing and a deviation will reduce the overall profitability of calf rearing:
- Source for good quality calves from a healthy herd;
- Farmer must have good knowledge of the source and disease status;
- Calves must be strong and healthy (alert, good joints, clean moist nose and bright eyes);
- Calves must have good navels;
- Calves must have sufficiently fed on colostrum for at least 12hours;
- Calves must have good weight (25 – 30kg at 7days)
Farmers target for calf rearing business must be to attain targeted weight at the shortest possible time at maturity (18 – 22weeks), minimize mortality, maintain good health and optimize daily liveweight gain.
Farmers should be aware of these 4 management steps for successful calf feeding:
- Standardized Feeding Regime:
Calves must be fed twice a day with milk for at least the first four weeks of life to satisfy their nutritional requirements and by four weeks of age, the calves can start consume increasing amounts of solid food Calves need to be fed twice a day in a feeding bottle with milk for at least the first four weeks of life to satisfy their nutritional needs and at four weeks of age, the calf starts to eat increasing amounts of dry feed ad libitum.
Farmers must be consistent with milk temperature served, concentration, volume and time of feeding is a determinant of successful calf rearing programme.
- Good Quality Feed
Calves must be fed with high quality calf starter as early from early age. It must have energy of 30 – 40 M.J, crude protein 18 – 20% protein, 10 – 20% fibre and fat levels should be 18- 20 per cent with sufficient minerals and vitamins. High energy feeds, such as milk and concentrates, are used more efficiently for growth than low energy feeds, such as medium quality pasture or hay.
Higher levels of dietary minerals are required to achieve growth rates of 1.0 kg/day,the two essential minerals of most importance to growing calves are calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) because both are required for bone development. These minerals also have other, more dynamic functions such as in muscle function (Ca) and energy metabolism (P). Signs of deficiencies of these major minerals is poor growth and poor appetite. Feed must be fresh, palatable and dust free. Raw materials must be mould free.
Clean fresh water must be consistently made available to encourage dry feed intake.
- Diseases Management
Farmers must maintain a good biosecurity on the farm, good hygiene, ventilated housing and health plan is properly monitored by a veterinarian. Use of probiotics and coccidiostats in calf feed has proven effective.
- Monitor Growth Rates
Farmers must weighing calves during the rearing period weekly or monthly so as to know the feed conversion efficiency, this is an excellent way to monitor their health status. Use of weighing scales measures calf weight accurately.