September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Adding a feeding makes a difference

Sockett presents calf study during World Dairy Expo
According to a recent study conducted by Dr. Don Sockett, calves are more successful when fed more than twice a day.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->FILE PHOTO
According to a recent study conducted by Dr. Don Sockett, calves are more successful when fed more than twice a day.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->FILE PHOTO

By By Krista Kuzma- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MADISON, Wis. - When it comes to calf care, mothers and grandmothers have good insight, said Dr. Don Sockett, an epidemiologist and microbiologist at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
"Calves are babies. Babies nurse from mothers multiple times a day. What would happen if we allowed calves to nurse their mothers more than twice a day," Sockett said.
This is a scenario Sockett evaluated during a recent study he conducted examining the "Impact of Feeding Calves Three Times a Day versus Twice a Day." He presented his conclusions from the study on Oct. 1 at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.
From the study, he concluded that calves are more successful when fed more than twice a day.
"We have not been feeding our calves properly for 100 years," Sockett said. "This research will show you that five to 10 years from now, the normal standard in our industry will be feeding our calves a minimum of three meals a day."
In Sockett's study, the dry matter intake was the same among all calves, but it was spread out between either two or three feedings each day. Each group had 35 calves. The calves were feed the same quality colostrum and all housed outside in hutches. They were fed a full-potential milk replacer containing 28 percent protein and 20 percent fat. During the first seven days, calves were fed 1.8 pounds of DM, 2.5 pounds from day eight to 42 and 2.25 pounds from days 43 to 49. Starting at three days of age, the calves were fed a calf starter with 20 percent crude protein.
In the calves fed three times a day, weight gain and body height was higher than calves fed twice a day.
"The calves were already bigger at 10 days of age," Sockett said. "That's amazing."
At three weeks of age, the calves fed three times a day were over 11 pounds heavier and one inch taller.
Feed efficiency differed between the group.
"Milk replacer is the most expensive feed you will feed on your farm. Why wouldn't you feed it in a manner where you get maximum utilization of the nutrients?" Sockett said.
The three-time-a-day calves also consumed more calf starter during the preweaning process.
"They were bigger animals. Their maintenance costs are higher and they're hungrier," Sockett said.
The calves were followed through to their first lactation. In the three-time-a-day feeding group, 34 of the 35 calves entered the milking herd while the other group had 28 of 35. Sockett's research found that for every six calves fed three times per day, one more cow entered lactation.
"That's a lot of money," Sockett said.
But there's more to it than money.
"This is an indication of the harm we're doing our animals by feeding them two times each day," Sockett said.
When Sockett asked the people who cared for the calves during the study to give him a subjective opinion about the difference between the two calves, they said they could tell a difference.
"They told me the calves were healthier and friskier. They jumped around. They were just a better calf," Sockett said. "That was amazing to me."
Historically, most calves in the United States are fed twice a day, Sockett said. This is because in the past, dairy farmers usually milked cows twice a day and fed the fresh milk from the cows to the calves.
"It was custom to do it that way," he said.
With his work previous work with young dairy animals, Sockett said he has seen a lot of calves that have a poor quality abomasum. Part of this is a result from twice a day feeding.
"A study found that the abomasum sits too long with a low pH when fed two times a day," Sockett said. "We still get wrecks. Nobody wants to deal with dead calves."
With three-times-a-day feeding, Sockett said this doesn't have to be the case.
"There are so many things that have to go right for a calf," Sockett said. "You can't control all the variables. The beauty of three-times-a-day feeding is that we can control that variable. The most important thing when raising babies is consistency and controlling variables."
Socket said feeding calves more than two times a day will become the norm as producers see the economic and health impact it can have on their calves growth and milking herd.
"I expect the discussion in 10 years to be about feeding three times a day in comparison to more feedings," he said.
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