Growth and weaning
Optimal growth during the ‘milk feeding’ phase determines the career of the future dairy cow (longevity, milk production, etc.).
If growth is insufficient: risk of culling in 50% of cases at 3rd calving (<700 g/d from 0 to 6 months = 5 kg less at weaning = 20 kg less at 6 months = 200 litres less milk per lactation).
The more sustained the growth, the more optimal the development of the udder.
The calf must double its birth weight, the ADG should be around 800 g/day.
Postpone weaning for calves that are lighter at the time of birth.
What are my heifer growth goals?
Growth of around 800 g/day is beneficial for heifer breeding.
The compensatory growth phenomenon does not apply in the first six months of the calf’s life, any delay is irremediable!
With growth below 700 g/day between 0 and 6 months, heifers are likely to be culled before the 3rd calving in one in two cases.
Different studies have shown that heifers that are heavier at six months (>200 kg) presented better fertility, longevity, and milk production results.
20 kg less at six months means
- 200 litres less milk per lactation
- Weight of carcass when culling <20 kg
- Reduced longevity (- 1 year)
The weaning phase can be difficult and requires special attention. Before milk feeding is stopped, the intake of concentrates and fodder should be gradual to boost development of the rumen.
When to wean?
- Age of calves 8 to 10 weeks
- Minimum: 2 kg of solid food/day/calf
- The calf should double its birth weight