Larger Concentrate Pellets Permit Earlier Weaning

Using a 6 mm early weaning concentrate pellet may permit earlier weaning and thus reduce calf rearing costs, according to Harper Adams University College’s Simon Marsh.
calendar icon 31 August 2012
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Animal Bytes

Increasing calf rearing pellet size from 3 mm to 6 mm could make earlier weaning possible and reduce calf rearing costs according to Harper Adams University College’s Simon Marsh, after carrying out a study to compare the effect of feeding either a 3 mm or 6 mm early weaning concentrate on the performance of artificially reared dairy-bred bull calves to 12 weeks.

“We found that overall performance was good and the calves fed the 6 mm pellet exceeded the MLC target for rearing calves to 12 weeks of 115 kg and recorded a significantly higher daily live weight gain (DLWG) from weaning to 12 weeks old. They gained an extra 6.7 kg in live weight from start to 12 weeks,” he said.

Concentrate intakes from start to weaning were also significantly higher with the 6 mm pellet and overall the calves consumed an extra 21.9 kg more per head.

“So it could be assumed that the increased concentrate intake resulted in the improved DLWG with the calves,” he told delegates at the British Society of Animal Science’s annual conference.

In pursuit of early dry feed intakes with artificially reared calves, it has been traditional in the UK to manufacture a pelleted calf starter feed using a small extrusion die (between 2.5 and 3.5 mm). This is significantly smaller than the pellet size used for adult ruminants (6-8 mm). But there are economic consequences for both the calf rearer and the feed producer.

For the rearer, achieving a higher concentrate intake could enhance rumen maturity and minimises growth retardation at and around weaning. For the feed manufacturer the time lost in the feed mill due to extrusion press die changes increases production costs.

“The improved intake that we saw with the larger 6 mm pellet would minimise growth check at weaning and enhance rumen development. The 6 mm pellet fed calves had a higher, but non significant, last rib girth measurement and this is an indication of rumen growth and development,” said Mr Marsh.

“Many commercial calf rearers wean calves when they are eating 1 kg of concentrates per head per day and it could therefore be possible to wean earlier with a 6 mm pellet and reduce calf rearing costs,” he added.

Full details: Marsh SP, Lingham T: “Effect of early weaning concentrate pellet size on the performance of artificially reared dairy-bred bull calves.”

To view proceedings, Advances in Animal Biosciences, of all summaries presented at the Annual Conference and Powerpoint presentations, please click here.

September 2012

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