Sensibly supplement full milk in calf rearing

In view of the anticipated super-levy, many dairy farms are deciding to feed excess full milk to calves calves. A few points have to be considered so that this type of rearing is successful.

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The casein in full milk curdles in the abomasum from around 35 degrees Celsius. In the rationed rearing with five to six litres a day, the drinking temperature has to be above this, as the drinking speed of calves is high. In intensive rearing with high quantities of drink of ten to twelve litres per day, the temperature of the drink is less important because the calves drink slowly.

The energy content of full milk is almost three megajoules of metabolisable energy (MJ ME) per litre. The energy requirement of a young calf for conservation and a daily weight gain of around 500 grams, in a mild winter, is roughly 20 MJ ME. At this temperature, seven litres are sufficient, if it is colder the amount of drink has to be increased further The high fat content of full milk can lead to diarrhoea problems in some operations. In view of this, it must be ensured that teats are in good order during feeding, as fat digestion starts with insalivation of the drink in the mouth. The supply of protein and minerals is always secured if the calf is well supplied in terms of energy with full milk.

If we look at vitamin A, for example, in the group of vitamins, the literature states a requirement of 12,000 to 15,000 Internationale Units (I.U.) per day for a 50-kg, healthy calf. We can assume that full milk contains around 1,000 I.U. per litre. This means a requirement of 12 to 15 litres per day in order to cover the vitamin A requirement.

Among the group of trace elements, iron is worth a mention. This trace element is the central atom in haemoglobin, which binds oxygen in red blood cells. A latent iron deficiency leads to a weakening of the immune system, an acute deficiency leads to a shortage of oxygen in the calves' blood. The result is a frequent occurrence of bronchitis and enteritis. Scientists state that the iron content of full milk is around 0.5 milligrams per litre. Young calves require at least 100 milligrams. If feeding only with full milk, it is therefore not possible to provide a calf with sufficient iron.

In this context, the supplement Combimilk Ideal is recommended, in a quantity of 100 to 150 grams per animal per day. Alongside organically bound trace elements and vitamins, Combimilk Ideal also contains a basic supply of acids to prevent diarrhoea. A healthy udder regularly pours body cells over the milk. The proportion of these somatic cells is typically less than 100,000 per millilitre of milk.

There are many factors, however, which impact negatively on the proportion of somatic cells without there being an infection in the udder. As an increased content of somatic cells does not typically mean there is an acute illness, this milk can be fed to calves without cause for concern. An actue udder infection can be assumed if the cell number suddenly increases excessively. This milk should be disposed of.

Experts are forever controversially discussing the possibility that infectious pathogens of the mastitis, specifically staphylococcus aureus, are spread and maintained by administering contaminated milk. It has still not been proven that these udder pathogens are passed on to the juvenile udder tissue of the calves through the administering of inhibitor milk and can live there fore a long period. Contrary to the possible transferability of the mastitis pathogen, the possible development of resistance after administering inhibitor-containing milk is very well known and scientifically proven.

Udders infected with mastitis are frequently still in the post-treatment waiting period. Even the smallest quantities of these pharmacologically effective susbstances provoke a resistance in the body, which will accompany the calf for the rest of its life. For this reason, it is not recommended that inhibitor-containing milk is fed to calves.

Further information about this topic can be obtained from Klaus Bürsken, Tel. 0172 . 5306363, or by calling the free hotline, Tel. 0800 . 682-1133.