Unlocking your calves’ potential

Unlocking your calves’ potential
Georgina Thomas

Trouw Nutrition GB Ruminant Specialist, Georgina Thomas, explains how the LifeStart Programme gives dairy producers the key to unlocking the full potential of their calves, leading to significant increases in herd productivity.

Heifer rearing is the second highest cost of dairy farming. A focus on maximising genetic potential could help to reduce the indirect costs of sub-optimal milk production whilst increasing herd productivity.
The latest science shows that the first eight to ten weeks of a calf’s life represent a huge opportunity to improve the long-term performance of a dairy herd. The LifeStart Programme helps dairy farmers take advantage of this opportunity.
LifeStart defines a proven approach for rearing healthy calves by quantifying and promoting calf rearing best practice. Easily followed protocols and advice mean farmers can help calves grow and develop into productive cows faster with improved fi rst lactation milk yields leading to improved profitability and efficiency. This includes the 5 Cs (see panel).

The 5 Cs for success

The LifeStart Programme places great emphasis on the 5 Cs of calf rearing:
Unlocking your calves’ potential

Calves must receive sufficient high quality colostrum quickly and must be kept in a clean, comfortable environment to help reduce challenges that might negatively affect growth. They must then be fed a high quality milk replacer consistently delivering the calories required for optimum growth. Applying the 5 Cs consistently together will have a lasting positive effect on your herd and will help give calves the best possible start in life.

The LifeStart Programme also includes a unique new approach to the formulation of calf milk replacers. Based on comprehensive research, Trouw Nutrition has developed a milk replacer
formulation matrix which ensures all LifeStart endorsed milk replacers have the appropriate and specific nutrient profile to support the growing calf. This allows the LifeStart Programme
to unlock the full potential of calves, nurturing them to achieve high growth rates in a healthy way.

Focus on early growth

The growth potential of a calf can be optimised using the LifeStart calf feeding plan. The key scientific principle behind the development of these specific feeding  recommendations is metabolic programming – an entirely natural phenomenon that has been proven to exist in all mammals. Research has shown that an elevated plane of nutrition in the critical first eight to ten weeks leads to increased pre-weaning average daily gain (ADG) which can have a significant impact on lifetime productivity.

4 litres/gram
The LifeStart Programme aims to deliver an average first lactation increase of 4 litres per gram of growth.

Pre-weaning ADG has a signifi cant effect on milk production in the first lactation. This is due to enhanced mammary development which is essential for the future productivity of the cow.
Increased ADG using the LifeStart Programme can also lead to a reduced age at first calving. This has the obvious benefit of bringing forward the start of the first lactation, increasing the potential productivity of the heifer whilst reducing the overall costs of production.
The LifeStart Programme is now taking the investigative science into a new phase. In partnership with institutions around the world, Trouw Nutrition is undertaking a unique five-year trial at its Ruminant Research Centre in the Netherlands which will follow calves reared using the LifeStart Programme through into milk production, allowing us to show the real return from better calf rearing. Results will be communicated every step of the way. The LifeStart Programme is helping understand nature’s way to unlock the early growth potential of the calf to further improve dairy farm efficiency in the future.

For more information visit lifestartscience.com or contact the Trouw Nutrition technical team at:  e: technical.gb@nutreco.com t: 01335 341102.

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