Optimising rumen development

Development of the calves’ gut in the first few weeks of life can have a substantial effect on growth rates, health and lifetime performance of the animal.

The transition from pre-ruminant to ruminant occurs between 4-8 weeks of age. The development of a functioning rumen relies on the generation of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from the bacterial fermentation of starter feeds in the rumen.

Fermentation of starch, provided in concentrates, generates propionic and butyric VFAs. Propionate is utilized by the calf as an energy source for growth, whereas butyrate is used as an energy source by cells in the rumen wall, encouraging growth of papillae.

When fed milk only (left) the rumen has no papillae and is white in colour (no blood circulation), meaning there is little feed absorption possible. When fed milk and starter feed (right) the rumen at six weeks shows developed papillae and is dark colour, allowing for significant feed absorption.

(Source: Penn State University).

Offering clean and fresh starter feed at three days of age, which is both highly palatable and meets the calves nutritional requirements will encourage dry feed intake. Thereby contributing to achieving early weaning success and optimum rumen development.

HJ Lea Oakes Heritage Coarse Calf Starter and Supreme Starter pellets are formulated to a minimum 18% crude protein and 12.8MJ of energy, satisfying the calves demand for rapid growth and development. Our high specification vitamin premix is included in all our calf starter feeds. Optimum levels of Vitamin A, D and E; a full range of B vitamins to help liver function as well as biotin and choline are all included to assist in several metabolic processes, bone formation and disease resistance. Our starter feeds also contain plant based prebiotic and probiotic feed additives to aid in gut health and calf growth. As well as helping to achieve target growth rates our feeds also aim to support healthy development, thereby reducing labour and rearing costs and improving lifetime performance.

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