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by SCA Nutech
We are now appreciating just how important it is to get calves off to a good start and the latest research is demonstrating how improved nutrition can achieve this and pay dividends. SCA NuTec's technical manager Norman Downey reports on the company's latest developments in this area.
Successful calf rearing depends on keeping disease at bay. Scours and respiratory problems are most common on farm, with an estimated cost of £25 and £38 per calf respectively for treatment. Such avoidable losses cannot be afforded under the current economic climate.
Provimi, through its international research and development programme, has carried out extensive work on young calf nutrition to improve growth rates, and animal welfare.
Results have led to improved understanding of young calf nutrition. One of the main developments is the introduction of a natural gut conditioning package, NuStart. This is specifically designed to improve digestive tract development and immune response in the young calf. This in turn will contribute to better growth rates and, probably more importantly, less disease.
Exploiting the calf's growth potential is a common goal among rearers and its immature digestive system will rely on highly digestible milk replacers and starter feeds to achieve this. A high quality starter feed, which supplies the correct nutrients to the bacteria in the rumen will also encourage rumen development.
To improve calf performance and take greater advantage of the young animal's growth potential, Provimi Limited has now added NuStart to all its milk replacers and also supplies it as a premix for using in creep feeds. It is non GM, free from antibiotic digestive enhancers and contains a unique blend of herb oils derived from herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon and garlic, all of which have known appetite, digestive and antiseptic benefits.
NuStart also has functional fibre to encourage rumen development and boost dry food intake plus the prebiotic Profeed®, which provides energy to the beneficial bacteria alone and cannot be absorbed through the gut wall. An optimal profile of vitamins and trace elements will help to promote a good immune response.
An ideal gut conditioning package, NuStart is fed to young calves from birth until the rumen is fully developed and stable by around 12 to 14 weeks old. It works by destroying pathogenic bacteria and encouraging the beneficial bacteria to grow, as well as boosting the immune system.
The reduction in the population of pathogenic bacteria within the gut means there is less damage done to the intestine, more nutrients are available for absorption and hence growth and development of the young calf is promoted. NuStart also has the ability to stimulate early rumen development and hence dry matter intake. This results in stronger more vigorous calves that can be weaned early.
As part of the development programme, NuStart has been trialled both abroad and in the UK.
One of the trials using milk replacers was carried out in the US at Provimi's calf research unit. Two milk replacers were fed; one with NuStart and one without on two groups of 12 calves each housed in individual pens bedded with straw. Calves had access to clean fresh water and dry starter feed at all times. Milk replacer was fed daily in two equal feeds for 42 days. The amount of starter feed offered and refused was weighed daily. Faeces were scored daily.
Weight gain in calves fed the milk replacer with NuStart was 17% higher than the group without. Feed efficiency and calf health also improved. The incidence of scouring was lower in the NuStart group.
Equally important, the feed cost by weight gain was lower when NuStart was fed, making it the more cost-effective option.
Closer to home, Provimi and Myerscough College, Lancashire, carried out a calf trial using NuStart in the premix. Two groups of evenly matched calves from 2 days old were used as a control and treatment group. One group was fed a good proprietary creep and a standard premix whilst the other had the same creep but the NuStart premix.
The group with the diet including NuStart outperformed the control group on all parameters. Growth rates in calves improved by 17 per cent in their first 12 weeks compared with the control and this improvement in growth rate peaked at 20% in weeks nine to 12. At the same time, cases of scouring dropped by 16% and pneumonia outbreaks fell by 24%.
Based on these results, the cost of using NuStart is easily justified on performance benefits alone but the benefits on health and well being are an added bonus. With the emphasis from the politicians and from consumers moving more towards health and welfare of animals, achieving a balance of better performance as well as health and welfare benefits marks a clear step forward.