Several studies suggest factors such as colostrum status and early-life nutrient intake can have long-term productivity effects.
In a recent study, Cornell University researchers observed a relationship between first-lactation milk yield and nutrient intake prior to weaning.
During the study, researchers fed a 28:15 or 28:20 milk replacer (mixed at 15 percent solids) at the rate of 1.5 percent of bodyweight from day 2 to 7 and then 2 percent of bodyweight from day 8 to 42. This feeding rate is approximately twice the traditional feeding rate and is designed to double calf birth weight under thermoneutral conditions.
“In our data set, for every 1 pound of average daily gain prior to weaning (or at least 42 to 56 days of age), the heifers produced approximately 937 pounds more milk (during their first lactation),” says Mike Van Amburgh, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University.
“To achieve these milk yield responses from early-life nutrition, calves must double their birth weight or grow at a rate that would allow them to double their birth weight by weaning (56 days),” Van Amburgh says. “Milk or milk replacer intake must be greater than traditional programs for the first three to four weeks of life in order to achieve this response.”
Target growth rates for Holstein calves are outlined in the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s (DCHA) Gold Standards. According to the guidelines, calf birth weight should double by weaning (by 60 days of age).
To learn more about the health and economics of accelerated heifer growth, check out the upcoming DCHA Webinar that Van Amburgh will present on June 7 at 1 p.m. CDT. Register for the event or call (877) 434-3377 for more information. DCHA's monthly webinar is a free benefit to all members. Non-members are invited to participate for a nominal fee of $25. The webinar is sponsored by Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition.