A growing number of Kiwi dairy farmers are realising the importance of the early introduction of high-quality fibre in calves for early rumen development and how this links with life-long health and production.
Canterbury farmers Sara and Stuart Russell are two such farmers, who switched to rearing their 450 calves on high nutritional fibre three years ago and which has seen some fantastic results.
The Long Beach couple rear their animals on Fiber Fresh feeds, a high-nutrition, fibre-based product that encourages increased natural rumen and papillae development improving the all-important VFA (Volatile Fatty Acids) balance for sustained growth and development. This has resulted in consistently heavier, healthier, contented and more productive animals. Their calves also transition to grass much easier with no check in growth after weaning.
But the most significant change the Russells have seen has been in their empty rates. Their two and three-year-old milking heifers who were raised on Fiber Fresh now have an empty rate of just 3%, having dropped from 8%.
Fiber Fresh national sales manager Bob Bell says getting animals onto the right kind of fibre in the first week helps take calves from being totally milk-reliant animals, to ones that can quickly thrive and develop to their full potential on pasture.
“Every day counts when it comes to getting calves off to a good start. Introducing fibre will encourage faster and healthier rumen and digestive development, allowing calves to transition and develop on grass much faster. It also leads to life-long benefits to health and production,” he says.
“Good calf development will lead to better, more productive replacements. That means cost savings for the farmer, but just as importantly, it leads to better long-term results, especially in pasture-based systems, while calves will also better utilise other solid feeds.”
Mr Bell says maximum rumen development occurs between four and 10 weeks and this is where fibre, such as that found in Fiber Fresh’s FiberStart, product brings the maximum benefit.
“By feeding fibre during this time, the calf is following a natural path of development with an easily digested fibre that lays down gut health for the remainder of the animal’s life.
“There is no comparison to FiberStart. The likes of straw or hay simply do not provide the same type of nutritional value and just fill up the rumen, taking away valuable space for energy and protein-rich feeds essential for maximum calf growth.”
He says calves should be introduced to FiberStart as early as possible, while they are still on milk and alongside any concentrate or cereal-based meal. Calves will initially only consume small quantities, but early adaption to the taste and texture allows them to gear up for higher intakes as weaning approaches.
Fiber Fresh feeds are research-based and are a culmination of 25 years of trials to develop the advanced processes that result in high-quality fibre products.