During the field demonstration, starter intake was also measured on all calves from birth to weaning (49 days).
Throughout the field demonstration, calves on the higher plane of nutrition doubled their birth weight in 49 days whereas those on the pasteurized milk only, did not. The average daily gain for calves that were fed a higher plane of nutrition was 1.77 pounds per day compared to 1.29 pounds per day for calves fed pasteurized milk only. The cost per pound of gain up to weaning on the group fed a higher plane of nutrition was $2.26 per pound of gain compared to $2.29 per pound of gain for calves fed pasteurized milk only.
“At first glance, it looked as if there was an advantage to feeding calves a higher plane of nutrition of $0.03 per pound of gain,” says Amaral. “However, there are other contributing factors that affect profitability besides weight gains. We decided to take it a step further by evaluating treatment and mortality costs.”
For the higher plane of nutrition group, treatment and mortality costs averaged $7.81 per calf and the pasteurized milk only group had average treatment costs of $11.51 per calf. “There was a lot of money spent on treatments in the group fed a lower level of nutrition,” says Amaral.
“If calves do not ingest enough nutrients to support growth and immune function, their defense mechanism can become compromised and treatment and mortality cost could be increased,” he explains.
Use KPIs to take action
By knowing all the KPIs (including treatment and mortality cost), this producer was able to evaluate the cost per pound of gain adjusted for treatment and mortality cost which was $2.43 per pound of gain on the higher plane of nutrition group compared to $2.68 on the pasteurized milk group. From this, it was concluded that calves fed a higher level of nutrition increased farm profitability $0.25 per pound of gain.
“From this exercise, we found that measuring calf performance and tracking KPIs of interest can help dairy producers make more informed decisions to maximize lifetime profitability,” says Amaral. “To put it simply, by measuring all of your costs, you are able to make wiser economic decisions for your calf feeding program.”