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calfStart – Metabolic programming

In past sense, nutrition in the past was primarily focused on mortality, early weaning and high roughage uptake for optimal rumen development. However, recent US scientific research suggests that feeding a lot of milk up to weaning (unlimited feed) results in higher milk production during the first lactation, known as metabolic programming. Compared with the control group for which the milk was limited, the test group produced 450 to 1,300 kg more milk in the first lactation (Soberon et al. 2012). The high feed schedule involves the calves being subject to so-called metabolic programming, which means that you can use the feed up to eight weeks of age to improve the subsequent performance of the dairy cow. This has an impact on the quality of the udder tissue formed during this period.

Metabolic programming gives better performance

A calf can be metabolically programmed to produce more milk later on in life. We are convinced that there is a strong relationship between metabolic programming and sustainability of animals. Desk studies show 1 gram of extra growth per day during the milk period of a calf results in an extra 4 litres of milk during the first lactation. 200 g of extra growth per day can produce up to 800 extra litres of milk. When translated in terms of the complete herd, this can considerably boost annual income.

Feed schedule

Below is a feed schedule for the metabolic programming of calves.

It is a schedule in which calves receive milk for 9 weeks, with colostrum milk in the first 2 days. The milk is supplied at a concentration of 150g milk powder per litre of milk. So a concentration of 15% dry feed per litre. It is important that the calves eat 2 kg of concentrate per day at weaning.