Don’t forget about water
Water plays an important role in calf starter consumption. When discussing the importance of water consumption to calf feeders, Underwood uses the analogy of eating a peanut butter sandwich without a beverage. If calves don’t have enough water to help them consume calf starter, this may hinder their appetite. “Keeping fresh water in front of calves at all times is essential to achieve optimal calf starter intake,” she says.
Calf feeders should be aware that as calves get older, water consumption increases. Lack of adequate water for older calves may lead to slug feeding of grain and subsequent digestive issues. When a calf does not have water or feed, and suddenly is offered either there may be a chance for the calf to consume a large amount of grain at once which may lead to digestive bloat. Free-choice starter and water availability can help minimize the risk of digestive upsets in calves, Underwood notes.
It is no secret that calves are amongst the choosiest eaters on most dairies and they thrive on consistent routines. To keep calves growing and developing to become profitable members of the lactating herd, consider routinely evaluating the operation’s feeding practices and make sure that all employees are on the same page.