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The Best Time for First Feeding of Calves

Posted on: November 8, 2019, edit by Victoria

1.  Q: Early or late feeding of calves is harmful to their growth and health. So the question is, when is the best time to start feeding?

A: It is most suitable for calves to start feeding forage at the age of 3 weeks.

2.  Q: What is the harm of feeding calves too early?

A: Because calves are very small in the rumen, reticulum, and omasum when they are born (i.e. less than 3 weeks old), they cannot digest forage. There are no microorganisms or ciliates, and only milk can enter the true stomach for absorption and utilization (currently only the true stomach is in operation). How to successfully avoid the forestomach and deliver milk to the true stomach depends on the closure of the esophageal groove. If feeding grass at this time will increase the burden of calf rumen, reticulum, and omasum, it will cause disease. 

The Best Time for First Feeding of Calves
The Best Time for First Feeding of Calves

3. Q: What is the harm of feeding calves too late?

A: If feed calves too late, the stomach and intestines can not be exercised, the growth and development of the rumen, reticulum, and omasum are slow, and the volume is too small, it will affect the growth and development and function of the stomach and intestines. 

4. Q: How much solid diet and green health products act on the rumen?

A: Without solid food stimulation, calf rumen will not develop. Normal bacteria, protozoa, and fungi in the rumen are naturally established from the time calves eat a solid diet. Although there are hundreds of microorganisms adhering to feed granules in the rumen, only a dozen microorganisms are the main groups. Only those bacteria that can ferment carbohydrates in the anaerobic environment can grow rapidly in the rumen. The final products of carbohydrate fermentation (especially acetic acid and butyric acid) are important stimulants for rumen development.

Therefore, the intake of a high starch diet is more important for rumen development than that of a roughage diet. Feeding high palatability calf feed (mixed cereal feed) is very important to promote the rapid development of the rumen and successful passage of the weaning period. Adding 1% of salt and 4% of premix to calf concentrate can better stimulate rumen development, improve rumen function and digestion to the environment, balance anions, and cations, improve feed utilization rate, promote the formation and development of calf skeleton, enhance growth potential, and promote later growth and weight gain. 

5. Q: What are the benefits of starting feeding calves at 3 weeks of age?

A: After 3 weeks of age, the rumen, reticulum, and omasum of calves increased rapidly, and microorganisms entered the forestomach (rumen, reticulum, and omasum) along with the mouth due to a small amount of feed and water. At this time, the calf began to ruminate. And we can begin to feed fresh grass, wild vegetables, high-quality hay, crushed concentrate feed and so on. With the growth of age, it should gradually increase the amount of feed and roughage.

This not only avoids the disease caused by too tender forestomach, but also accelerates the development of forestomach, promotes the reproduction and growth of microorganisms and ciliates in the rumen, and gradually strengthens the function of digestion of forage and feed, which lays a good foundation for cattle to eat a large amount of roughage later, and for skeleton development rapidly.

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