Calf rearers will demand better nutritional solutions over the next 10 years to meet more exacting young animal health and development requirements and this will continue to drive an increase in performance-formulated milk replacer usage.
That’s according to independent vet Dave Gilbert from Dairy Insight, who recently highlighted this issue while reviewing the key results of a series of in-depth interviews with more than 600 (644) GB dairy and beef calf rearers carried out by Volac in November 2017.
The research project repeated a detailed market study exercise carried out 10 years ago. The findings show that youngstock rearing practices have changed significantly since 2007 and will continue to evolve to meet various challenges.
More calves are being fed milk replacer
“Over the last 10 years there has been nearly a three-fold increase in number of dairy calves reared on milk replacer and a five-fold increase in the number of beef calves reared on artificial milk replacers. This has been driven in part by a greater appreciation of the disease threat from feeding whole and waste milk, but also by new recommended herd efficiency targets and basic economics. We can only see that trend accelerating,” Mr Gilbert said.
According to the new research, 58% of GB dairy calves and 52% of GB beef calves are now fed milk replacer. Most of the remainder continue to be reared on whole milk.
The research study also showed that 60% of the calf rearers interviewed now see their vet as the most valued and trusted source of calf rearing advice.
“Vets are definitely becoming more engaged with youngstock health issues and it seems farmers are turning to them for nutrition and calf husbandry advice too. I’ve certainly experienced this personally with the farmers I work with and there is no doubt there is increasing recognition of the need to invest more in these young animals that represent the future of any herd,” Mr Gilbert added.
Farmers are looking for better quality ingredients
When evaluating calf milk replacers, the latest research shows that overall ingredient quality is now the key feature farmers are looking for; in 2007 this was deemed far less important, with availability in store being the leading attribute sought when making a product choice for rearing calves.
Against this background, Volac has been re-examining high quality calf milk replacer formulation; not in terms of finding an artificial product to replace milk, but rather identifying the best possible nutritional solution for the pre-weaned young calf. The conclusion is that whey protein contains the magical components of milk that are so fundamental for calf programming and development.
“Milk is a complex collection of ingredients designed specifically to ‘communicate’ to the calf.
“It provides ingredients for growth, it primes the immune system, it assists in pathogen control and it shapes the future growth and development of the calf during the critical first few weeks of life. But these goals are predominantly delivered by bioactive components in the whey protein fraction of milk, which are at their highest concentration in colostrum but present at lower levels in whole milk.”
Mr Watson explained that whey protein represents 65% of the protein content of colostrum, whereas the other 35% is casein protein. The whey protein content of whole milk is only 20%.
Introducing Imunopro: a concentrated whey protein base material
“What Volac is now able to do is to filter and concentrate up the liquid whey protein fraction of milk and collect the important proteins, fats, sugars and other bioactive components so important for calf programming. The resultant important ingredient, now integral to all our calf milk replacer formulations, is Imunopro – a concentrated whey protein base material packed with the vital amino acids and immunoglobulins so necessary for healthy calf growth and development.
“Production of this concentrated whey protein also means we can now precision-formulate our milk replacers based on true protein, which involves looking at the crucial limiting amino acids for calves – such as lysine and leucine – just as pig and poultry sector nutritionists have done so effectively in recent years for monogastric species.
“Incidentally, leucine is critical in driving the rate of muscle protein synthesis in the calf. It is also the reason why whey is the protein source of choice for human athletes seeking optimum performance,” Mr Watson added.
He also pointed out that Imunopro concentrates up 16 times the amount of milk fats in comparison with whey or skim powders. “This gives our new milk replacer formulations vital energy from microscopic oil droplets surrounded by important phospholipids and sphingolipids. However, this vital fat fraction is also important for rapid gut maturation in the calf and, additionally, gives the final milk replacer products valuable anti-bacterial properties.”
Volac’s team of nutritionists has now re-formulated its entire range calf milk replacer products based on Imunopro. The result is an exciting portfolio of new performance-formulated products.
New calf milk formula range
Volac’s new range of calf milk replacers that have been performance-formulated to give dairy and beef calves the best possible start in life. The Lifeguard milk formula range has been designed to meet the rapidly evolving demands of modern calf rearers.
Based on concentrated whey protein, which makes up the majority of the protein fraction of natural cow colostrum, the new milk replacers incorporate only the highest quality ingredients.
“All our new products incorporate Imunopro – a concentrated whey protein base material packed with the vital amino acids, fats, sugars and immunoglobulins so necessary for healthy calf growth and development,” said global product manager Niall Jaggan.
Volac makes Imunopro from liquid whey and then formulates in a balanced range of high quality nutrition and health ingredients to meet modern calf development requirements.
“The first phase is liquid blending where the Imunopro milk complex is balanced with the necessary additional protein, oils and sugars required to allow calves to hit optimum growth and development targets when fed recommended daily amounts of milk replacer.
“The protein is balanced to ensure calves will be fed the optimum amount of true protein in the form of essential amino acids. It is important to appreciate that the crude protein content on the bag label does not give you an indication of the useable protein available to the calf,” Mr Jaggan pointed out.
“The oil is balanced with high quality vegetable fats to mimic the milk fat profile, plus the addition of butyrate (C4:0), which has been shown recently to improve gut health.
“The sugars are also balanced to ensure the final milk replacer product contains the correct energy level to meet accepted target growth rates.
“The fully balanced liquid blend is then spray dried for optimum mixability, palatability and consistency before, finally, the addition of Volac’s proven package of health ingredients (Gardion and Nutry-Lyst), plus enhanced levels of vitamins and minerals,”
Four calf milk replacer products make up the new Lifeguard range for UK calf rearers, with each product performance formulated to meet specific growth rate targets:
- High performance Heiferlac, which drives 900g of calf growth per day.
- Blossom High Spec, the considered solution for large herds also looking to achieve 900g of calf growth per day
- Golden Maverick High Spec, the considered solution for large herds also looking to achieve 900g of calf growth per day
- Blossom Easymix, the tried and trusted product to drive 750g of calf growth per day
- Olympian, developed specifically for modern beef enterprises and traditional dairy units to give exceptionally cost effective growth rates
- Enerlac, which is specifically designed as a cost-effective solution for beef or mixed enterprises looking for 625g of calf growth per day