Good calf health starts with good maternal nutrition


Dairy calf growth and health can be impaired by poor maternal nutrition and stressors such as birth stress and colostrum deprivation but these can be mitigated with quality management and adequate early nutrition. Trace minerals are key components in structural development and function of many cellular systems, including the immune system. Adequate trace mineral status must be established at birth and maintained to ensure sufficient stores for optimal performance and for when there is a disease challenge. Biological and economic benefits of organic trace minerals may be more pronounced in accelerated early nutrition programmes where calves are growing more rapidly and when calves are subjected to nutritional, environmental or social stress.

However, calf health is not only determined by the nutrition program of the young calf, but also of dry and close up cows. Trace mineral status of calves is dependent on placental transfer of trace minerals and colostrum trace mineral concentrations. A survey of 997 dairy herds and 1 083 beef cow herds in France and Belgium found that Cu and Zn deficiency was a risk factor for calf health disorders such as death, diarrhoea and vaccination failure. In addition, cattle deficient in manganese will have light birth weight calves and increased mortality. The depletion of cobalt and vitamin B12 at parturition causes depressed colostrum yield and quality.

Feeding Zn, Mn, Cu and Co in the form of Availa®4 to cows during the dry and pre-fresh periods resulted in increased IgG concentrations (P < 0,05) in colostrum (improved quality) and minimised depletion of the energy reserves of the cows.

Mastitis can not only affect health and performance of the lactating cow, it can also impact calf health, as mammary infections and high SCC negatively impact colostrum quality, calf health and performance. Research has shown that cows with persistent mammary infections produced less colostrum with a lower quality. Higher colostrum SCC linearly decreased average daily gain from 0,19 to 0,08kg/day during the first month of life and overall from 0,49 to 0,40kg/day during the first 60 days of life. Scouring days were also increased with feeding higher SCC colostrum at birth. In a summary of 20 studies, it was found that feeding Zn, Mn, Cu and Co in the form of Availa®4 to cows beginning in the dry period and continuing into lactation reduced SCC by 30 000 (P < 0,05).

Feeding Availa®4 to the cow during the dry and transition periods will not only benefit her but also the calf. Having a strong, healthy calf will strengthen your replacement heifer programme, as well as the longevity of the herd.

Zinpro and Chemuniqué are committed to improving the performance of dairy cows and calves, through quality trace mineral supplementation. Talk to your nutritionist or feed sales representative about the inclusion of Zinpro Performance Minerals in the diets of your cows and calves.

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