Stressed calves

Dec 14, 2020


Written by TFC Nutrition Staff

Among the most stressful events in a calf’s life are weaning, transport, and relocation. Appetite is often suppressed during these periods of stress but will rebound in subsequent days. That’s why stressed calves often do not have a “normal” level of intake. Regardless of the cause, intake depression requires special considerations when starting calves on feed.

Palatability is one of the foremost characteristics to look for in a starter ration. A producer should do everything within reason to entice calves to go to the bunk and eat. Along with the standard addition of molasses in wet or dry form, other options to enhance flavor now exist. Feed flavorings and high-intensity sweeteners have very low-inclusion rates and aid palatability without adding sugar to the diet.

Crude protein percentage and protein sources are also important considerations in rations for stressed calves. In addition to depressed intake, calves in this situation may have less-than-optimal rumen function and produce less microbial protein. Therefore, inclusion of high-quality proteins with a significant portion of undegradable or “bypass” becomes necessary. Highly digestible ingredients such as cottonseed meal, distillers dried grains, and corn gluten meal meet this need in most situations. Crude protein should be a minimum of 12 percent, though 13-15 percent is preferable. As a general rule, non-protein nitrogen (NPN) such as urea should be avoided. Natural proteins are preferred.

Delivery of adequate energy to a stressed, naive calf with little appetite presents another challenge. While conventional wisdom would suggest we compensate for depressed intake by using high-energy grains such as corn or barley in the ration, this is likely not the best route. Remember the chicken soup? Rations that are moderate in energy and utilize low-starch ingredients such as wheat middlings, soybean hulls, and citrus pulp are more applicable than high-starch or “hot” rations. This approach should greatly reduce the chances for acidosis and help eliminate another potential stress factor on an already compromised animal.

Concentration of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals can be increased in the diet to compensate for lack of intake. The addition of these nutrients at levels to meet the requirements of stressed animals, which differ from normal requirements, can be very valuable during the weaning transition.

Another method to assure adequate mineral status is through the use of chelated or “organic” trace minerals. Recent research has shown that mineral-deficient animals benefit more from supplementation with organic forms of minerals than those that have adequate mineral status.

Feed additives that improve feed efficiency and treat or control diseases are often beneficial and provide a great return on investment when included in starter/receiving rations. The combination of Aureomycin® and Bovatec® (A+B) has produced impressive results when included in rations for stressed calves.

Hay that is offered should be high quality, free of dust and mold, and soft enough to encourage consumption. Making the appropriate mineral mixture available free choice or adding it to the ration should help stimulate appetite and encourage drinking. Water should be fresh, clean, and plentiful.

Presentation of feed and overall creature comfort also has much to do with feed intake. Many times freshly weaned or newly arrived calves will not go to the trough or bunk and “compete” for a spot to eat and drink. Be sure to provide adequate space so weak and timid animals have ample opportunity for nourishment. Your local Co-op carries a wide selection of water troughs and feed bunks. To provide a favorable environment for adjustment and acclimation, weaning/arrival pens should be comfortable and mud-free, offer access to shade, and be somewhat protected from the wind.

Co-op Super Starter A+B (#94250) incorporates many of the technologies outlined above. It offers protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals at the right levels from the right sources. The A+B combination offers control of coccidiosis and treatment of some respiratory diseases. For producers who blend rations on the farm, Co-op Balancer Cattle Minerals can be added to provide vitamins, minerals, and salt. The A+B feed additive can be included in on-farm blends by using Aureo 7000 + Bov 4000 Crumbles (#90074) at levels for increased rate of weight gain and control of some diseases known to plague growing calves.

Providing proper nutrition and reasonable comfort during the weaning/receiving phase may not be simple, but will encourage a smooth transition to normal feed intakes and desirable animal performance. See your Co-op livestock specialist for more information on Co-op feeds, minerals, and feed additives.

Please remember to consult your Veterinarian for a VFD in order to purchase this and other products containing Aureomycin.    


 

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