Feed for the Future
“As dairy farmers, you feed a properly balanced ration to your cows designed to optimize health and productivity. So do you do the same for your calves?” Todd McDonough from Land O’Lakes Animal Milk posed this question during one of the recent Calf Roundtable Discussion meetings hosted by Landmark Services Cooperative. When considering how a calf utilizes the nutrients they are fed, McDonough encourages both farmers and nutritionists to remember the acronym “M.I.G.”, which stands for Maintenance, Immune System, and Growth. This is the order in which a calf partitions nutrients within their small bodies. Young calves have such a high nutrient demand just for maintenance simply to keep themselves alive, many calves are fed a diet deficient in vitamins, protein, and fat. This compromises a calf’s ability to develop a strong immune system, let alone partition any nutrients for growth of the calf. In addition, the maintenance requirement can increase significantly based on stress, weather, environment, or health challenges. Such challenges partition even more nutrients to maintenance, leaving less to be used for immune system development or meeting the farmer’s growth goals.