It’s time to start thinking about weaning those fall-born calves, and although you expect to hear some upset mama cows and calves for a few days, there are ways to eliminate stress in the calves and keep them healthy by getting them to the bunk to eat. Twig Marston, Technical Sales Field Manager at BioZyme®, suggests three key factors to getting calves used to eating a grain diet: feed preparation, feed presentation and management decisions that will help stimulate appetites.
As you determine the diet you will put your weaned calves on, make sure it is a highly palatable, nutrient-dense ration. Make sure the feed is fresh, and it has a good texture and flavor to it.
“It would be good to include VitaFerm® Sure Start® pellets in their diets as they get started on feed to make sure they receive high quality vitamins, minerals and trace minerals, while getting the Amaferm® advantage that all BioZyme products have,” Marston said.
Making sure you have clean, accessible bunks that the calves can comfortably eat from is important to make sure they all get to the bunk to eat. Make sure the bunks are easy for the calves to get to, and the right height that calves can easily get their heads into and eat from without adding stress to their experience. Be sure the bunks are clean and free from mold.
Establish a signal to let the calves know it is feeding time and there is indeed feed ready for them. This can be a loud calf call, a whistle or bucket rattle that you use each time you feed them. They will get accustomed to hearing this signal and associate it with feeding time.
When delivering feed to the calves, make sure to mix and evenly distribute the feed in the bunk. Calves will get more evenly distributed intake if the grain is spread evenly instead of most of being dumped in one end and then spread thin along the rest of the bunk.
Management Decisions that Stimulate Appetite
Healthy calves will have a healthy appetite and eat readily.
“I’d suggest using Vita Charge® Drench on weaning day to stimulate appetite and encourage water consumption early on,” Marston said.
Another product that producers can feed is the Vita Charge Stress Tub. The tubs offer an around-the-clock, high-quality supplement to calves that will stimulate saliva production, enhance intake and increase digestibility.
It is important to establish a regular feeding schedule with your calves. They will be used to eating at specific times. And, feeding them twice daily will keep the feed fresher in the bunk.
“It comes down to three simple steps to getting your weaned calves used to eating at the bunk. Follow these steps and you should have healthy, growing calves,” Marston said.