By Twig Marston, BioZyme® Beef Business Development & Field Support
When the time comes to wean calves, producers have a lot of decisions to make on weaning strategies, vaccination programs and feeding protocols. However, the most important decisions producers will make are how to keep their calves healthy, on feed and gaining weight. Ensuring a seamless transition from a milk-based diet to dry feed and hay starts with proper nutrition to maximize performance potential and prevent sickness.
Prior to weaning, a calf’s diet consists of milk that is energy rich and packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, when a calf is weaned those nutrients a calf received from milk must be replaced with a highly palatable, combination of roughage, concentrate and supplements. Whether you are turning calves out on grass or leaving them in a dry lot, here are some important factors to consider:
- Weaning on grass: It is important to consider the quality of the forage if turning calves out on grass post-weaning. In late summer, fall and winter, many forages are in a declining state of nutrient content. As a result, supplemental feed may be required for calves to achieve desired weight gains.
- Weaning in a dry lot: Calves weaned in a dry lot must learn to eat from a bunk if they have not been exposed to them prior to weaning. It is important to consider bunk space (at least 12 inches per calf) and bunk height so that smaller calves can reach feed and water.
Weaning stress coincides with a time in a calf’s life when diets need to contain significant amounts of bioavailable trace minerals. Even if a calf has stored ample amounts of trace minerals (copper, zinc, and selenium) before weaning, weaning stress can quickly deplete trace mineral reservoirs. This, combined with the additional protein and energy needed to accommodate the rapid growth of calves during this stage of production, means proper nutrition is crucial. BioZyme offers a wide variety of products to meet your operation’s nutritional needs during weaning. Here are some of the products producers have had success implementing within their weaning nutrition programs:
- Vita Charge® Drench or Gel: Products designed to be given on the day of weaning which contains Amaferm®. They are designed to stimulate intake, digestibility and nutrient absorption. The advantage of weaned calves to quickly start on feed will be reflected in increased growth and performance.
- Vita Charge® Stress Tub: A 50 or 200 lb. cooked molasses tub that contains Amaferm and MOS to support digestive health and promote feed and water intake during times of stress and/or recovery from sickness. MOS traps bad bacteria limiting their ability to do harm to the animal. The Stress Tub conveniently allows beef cattle to get their daily dose of organic trace minerals, vitamins, and B vitamins without additional handling.
- Gain Smart: Gain Smart offers three loose mineral options that promote calf health and vigor, stimulate digestion and increase nutrient uptake for optimum gain, supports hoof health and immunity all while accurately supplementing those minerals lacking in the pasture and rectify mineral imbalances. Options available include: Gain Smart Stocker, Gain Smart Wheat and Gain Smart Balancer RU1600.
- Sure Champ®: A pelleted vitamin and mineral supplement that can be top-dressed or mixed in a ration to improve digestive health, stimulate appetite and optimize health. Typically used in show cattle, Sure Champ is a versatile product that contains 25-percent protein and elevated levels of highly bioavailable vitamins and minerals to achieve maximum performance potential. Sure Champ contains organic zinc, copper and manganese and the maximum allowable level of selenium. Added vitamins of A, D and E, niacin, and B-12 allow for added growth, bloom, and overall health.
Implementing any of these products will take your nutrition program to the next level and ensure continued weight gain and improved immune response of newly weaned calves. For more information about these BioZyme products, contact your local dealer or the ASM in your area.