Calf raising practices across the country can be very different and each farm has its own way of raising their calves. However, the end goal on most calf operations is universal: to raise calves economically in order to achieve optimal performance once they freshen.
That’s according to Dr. Bruno Amaral, dairy nutritionist consultant with Purina Animal Nutrition. “While very simple in theory, this goal may not be attainable if producers and calf managers don’t have a system in place to measure the effectiveness of their calf nutrition program,” he says.
Key performance indicators or KPIs are often used to evaluate the performance of the lactating herd. KPIs can also be useful tools to assist in evaluating calf performance and how calf nutrition programs contribute to lifetime profitability of the operation.
Use KPIs to make more informed management decisions
To show the importance of utilizing KPIs, Dr. Amaral shares an actual herd that he worked with recently. This operation was evaluating the cost-effectiveness of implementing a higher plane of nutrition in its calf feeding program versus continuing with its existing feeding program.
Two feeding programs evaluated:
- Current feeding program: Pasteurized waste milk and an 18 percent calf starter.
- Higher plane of nutrition feeding program: Pasteurized waste milk with a Pasteurized Milk Balancer® supplement along with a 20 percent calf starter. (A Pasteurized Milk Balancer® is a supplement product developed to be added to pasteurized milk to increase the total solids fed and also to balance fat and protein in the final solution.)
To determine which program would add more to the dairy’s bottom line, Dr. Amaral and the producer evaluated both programs at the farm level, using 20 animals per treatment.
Both groups received the following liquid nutrition:
- At birth: 4 quarts of colostrum
- Maternity barn: 2 quarts 8-12 hours after birth
Pasteurized waste milk was then fed at the following rates:
- Day 1-14: 2 quarts twice per day
- Day 15-28: 3 quarts twice per day
- Day 29-42: 4 quarts twice per day
- Day 43-49: 8 quarts once per day
The total solids concentration in the pasteurized milk averaged 12.5 percent total solids. For the group fed a higher plane of nutrition, 0.5 pounds of Pasteurized Milk Balancer® supplement was added per gallon of pasteurized milk. The solution of pasteurized milk plus Pasteurized Milk Balancer® supplement averaged 16.5 percent total solids.