Feed for young dairy animals: An unexplored opportunity

Dr R Gnana Sekar, Technical and Marketing Manager – Dairy

Eli Lilly Asia Inc

Feeding-Calf

India is targeting to double its milk production by 2020. This requires three important supports i.e feed, breed and management. While we focus on improving breed with good quality semen (imported semen is being used in some states), feeding and management is often neglected particularly for the young animals. This leads to lesser utilization of improved genetics. Proper feeding program provides young animals to grow faster and to become replacement animals in the dairy farm. This article focuses on the need for proper nutritional support to get the required growth rate in the young animals and the opportunity available for the calf and heifer feed.

The challenges faced by dairy producers – for replacement cows or buffaloes

  1. Increased cost of dairy animals – need to raise their own calf with improved genetics
  2. Calves are not growing properly – need good nutrition to meet the growth demand
  3. Poor knowledge on calf rearing – education is needed on nutrition and management of young animals

Need for calf feed

Majority of the female calves born today are not fed and managed properly by our dairy producers. They are fed with feed residues, some grains and cakes or they are simply ignored. Only in few places particularly in Punjab or in some organized farms where main focus is given by the producers to develop dairy calves as replacement cows. Improper care and poor nutrition leads to calf mortality, poor growth rate, long time to puberty and lesser conception rate etc. These conditions can be reversed by providing proper feeding and management. Focus by dairy farmers for rearing young animals is expected to increase as they get higher price for dairy cows and buffaloes due to increased demand for good quality animals. If the dairy producers can develop their own animals faster, then the average production per animal can be raised with improved genetics.

ADG is the key!

Average daily gain is very important to get the calves to grow quickly to become adult animals. The below given table indicates that a poorly growing dairy calves takes more time to achieve the target weight gain for the first insemination. This increases the cost of maintenance leading to cost of rearing replacement cows or buffaloes.

Details eg. 1 eg.2 eg. 3 eg. 4
Calf birth weight

35

35

35

35

Average daily gain g/h/d

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

Expected weight for first insemination

300

300

300

300

Kg to gain to reach target weight

265

265

265

265

No of days required to grow 300kg BW

1325

883

663

530

No of months required

44

29

22

18

The following benefits will be available for the dairy producers when they raise the calves with proper nutrition and management.

  • Get their heifers milk sooner: Dairy farmers can increase the herd size with the new replacement cows grown in their farm
  • Retain and grow the animals with improved genetics: Dairy farmers will be able to retain good quality genetics in their farm itself. No need to purchase good genetics from outside of their dairy farm

Types of calf feed needed

  • The following categories of calf feed are needed with different ingredients and nutrient profile to get proper growth in young animals
Calf/heifer age Type of feed
0 – 3 months Calf starter
3 – 6 months Calf feed
6 – calving Heifer feed

Market opportunity for calf feed in India

Although the current production of calf or heifer feed in India is negligible, there is a huge unexplored potential in it. A small calculation is given below to estimate the potential of calf feed market in India. The estimated potential could be 10 – 15% of current cattle feed production.

Quantity of cattle feed produced

1000

Average quantity of feed consumed kg/h/d

3

No of animals covered

11111

% Conception rate*

50%

No of calves born

5556

% female calves

50%

No of female calves born every year

2778

Average quantity of calf/heifer feed kg/calf/day*

1.5

Average quantity of heifer feed kg/head/month

45

Potential for calf feed in the existing area MT/month

125

% growth for your existing market

12.5%

* May vary depending on management

Conclusion

Exclusive feed for young animals provides optimum nutrition resulting in to good body weight gain and good quality replacement cows. This will help the dairy producers to increase their farm average milk production which is a key factor to increase efficiency resulting in to reduction of cost of milk production.

( Author’s Email: r_gnana_sekar@elanco.com )

[Content courtesy : Livestock Institute for Knowledge & Excellence (LIKE)  E-mail: manishadbhosale@gmail.com]

Pictures used in this page are from open source.

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