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A growing number of stations have been using CalfGro® pellets and early weaning to reduce the need for second round musters. It is useful to maintain body condition of breeders and to get the young calf to a point where it can take care of itself and then be turned into a saleable animal. CalfrGro® is being used as a management tool to improve productivity during average to good seasons.

This year on many stations, early weaning with CalfGro® could be a necessity and a way to preserve as many calves as possible and to keep as many cows in a suitable condition to hopefully ride out a drier than normal season.

CalfGro® has been very successfully used on stations over the last four years, as it helps the calves move quickly onto a safe, grain based ration, while importantly aiding rumen development. CalfGro®, being high in protein (21% CP) and energy (13 MJ/Kg), and a good source of minerals and vitamins, will help the young calf to grow whilst also playing a pivotol role in the development of the rumen. Rumen developement is key in enabling the calf to make better use of dry paddock feed.

Developing the Rumen

Work done with dairy calves has shown that calves fed on milk and grain, will have a more developed rumen than calves fed on milk only, or milk and hay. The breakdown of the grain in the rumen produces two particular volatile fatty acids which assist in the growth and development of papillae, though which nutrients are absorbed. The more papillae there are, the greater the surface area available to absorb nutrients. Calves with a more developed rumen (more and larger papillae), have the ability to make better use of dry paddock feed when they are weaned off the pellets. The photos below show the development of a calf rumen, highlighting the impact that grain can have on the development of rumen papillae.

Rumen pictures

Without further good rains, on some stations, access to paddock feed for the weaned calves may be a real issue. A well developed calf rumen, as a result of a calf fed on Calfgro®, allows the animal to make better use of whatever paddock or supplementary feed is available. The calf with a developed rumen will better utilise of hay or silage, and have greater growth rates, than the calf that has simply been weaned off the cow.

Feeding pellets ad lib to weaners that have reached 130-140 kgs becomes expensive and for this reason regular drafting and weaning onto paddock feed is always recommended. However if paddock feed is limited and the calves are being fed hay or balage, then “supplementing” these larger weaners with 1-1.5 kg/day of Calfgro®, will keep the weaners going forward.

In previous years, the economics of supplementing calves and weaners for an extended time would be questioned and while in the current market environment, it still must be done very carefully, the end result of getting a saleable weaner or a replacement breeder back in calf, is worth a great deal more to you.

For more information about how Calfgro® or any of the other Milne Feeds pelleted products could work to help you manage your cattle over the next six months, please call Dean Maughan on 0419 047417.