The effect of milk feeding frequency on the performance of Dexter x Holstein calves from birth to weaning

Author: J.M. Rust & M.N. Mkhungela
Year: 2016
Issue: 1
Volume: 9
Page: 1 - 5

Calf rearing is a demanding task which requires regular milk feeding that contributes substantially to the labour inputs on a dairy farm. The feeding of milk and especially grain is necessary to develop the rumen of calves before weaning. Grain meal intake is used as an indirect estimator of rumen development and a criterion for weaning. It is believed that the specific milk feeding method has an effect on grain meal intake and rumen development of the calf. To ensure adequate development, a dry starter feed should be made available as soon as the calf receives milk or milk replacer. It has been reported that higher intakes of concentrates were observed in calves fed only once a day as compared to twice a day. The aim of the study was to evaluate the average daily concentrate intake (CI), average daily gain (ADG) and average feed conversion ratio (FCR) of Dexter x Holstein calves on two different milk feeding regimes. The CI and FCR were done on a group basis whereas ADG was done on an individual calf basis. All calculations were based on concentrate intake only since both groups received a fixed volume of 3 litres of milk/calf/day. A total of 40 calves were used and they were divided into once-a-day (OAD) (N=20) and twice-a-day (TAD) (N=20) groups. Calves were kept on Kikuyu pastures with ad lib. calf starter meal and fresh water available in a group fed scenario. All excess starter meal was weighed back on a daily basis and calves were weighed every fortnight. Calculations were done on a fortnightly basis, starting on week 2 and ending on week 10 at weaning. The OAD CI (kg) per calf per day for week 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 was 0.097, 0.312, 0.370, 0.895 and 1.600 respectively. The TAD CI (kg) for week 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 was 0.097, 0.285, 0.344, 0.852 and 1.600 respectively. The FCR for OAD during the same time period was 0.42, 0.78, 1.63, 1.15 and 1.70. The FCR for TAD was 0.29, 1.18, 1.79, 1.13 and 1.73. The ADG for OAD was 0.23, 0.34, 0.65, 0.78 and 0.94. The ADG for TAD was 0.31, 0.21, 0.59, 0.75 and 0.92 respectively. There were no significant differences (p ≥ 0.05) between OAD and TAD in any of the variables recorded. There was no negative effect on calves fed once-a-day only.

Read article