A recent article in The Hoard’s Dairyman, states that newborn calves require full nutrients if they are going to reach their full potential as mature cows.  From birth, calves have a maintenance requirement.  Once this requirement is met, growth can take place.

This just the beginning, since calves are born with about 4 percent body fat, only half of which can be mobilized.  Depending on daily temperatures, this provides the calf with, at most, four days of energy reserves.  Once depleted, the calf relies solely on dietary intake to generate heat or mount an immune response.  If nutrient intake is below maintenance, the calf will shift its internal resources away from growth and utilize body protein for survival.

Further, feeding one pound of milk replacer or whole milk dry matter, the often-cited “industry standard,” only meets a 100-pound calf’s maintenance at 68 degrees F and above.  At no point will this quantity allow for significant growth.  Below this temperature threshold, cold stress takes hold, dramatically elevating the young ruminant’s nutrient needs.  Farmers need to be aware of this in Arizona because this time of year cool temps can affect the growth of a young calf.  It is important to note that this article did not give higher temp responses.  We know that when temps reach high extremes calves need more energy to breathe harder and to stay cool.

Arizona DHIA helps several calf ranches monitor the milk’s quality that goes into their calves.  Calf milk is analyzed for common pathogens that can make calves sick, like Salmonella spp. and E. coli.  We also monitor calf milk on a regular basis or when an emergent need presents itself.  The gold standard, calf milk and colostrum quality work-up includes a standard plate count (SPC), coliform count (CC), and tests for the presence of Mycoplasma spp. and Salmonella spp.  In addition to bacterial counts and pathogen testing, Arizona DHIA also provides nutritional and somatic cell count analysis.  Arizona DHIA’s existing technology allows calf managers to determine nutritional components of calf milk, like protein and fat.  This makes Arizona DHIA a one-stop shop for your calf milk testing needs.

One dietary strategy will not suffice across the year.  Without adequate nutrition, especially during the extreme weather producing months, morbidity and mortality rates escalate.  There is a need to move beyond a bare-bones diet and feed calves for a higher rate of survival and gain.  Data from multiple university trials highlights the long-term consequences and lifetime milk losses associated with not meeting calves’ requirements early on.

Ultimately, you reap what you sow or feed!  Research indicates that in the process of pinching pennies in calf rearing budgets, a dairyman inadvertently does more long term harm than short term good.  If you would like us to help you monitor the nutritional and bacterial quality of your calf milk, call us at 602-882-1230.  We would love to be a tool that you use for your success!