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Calf Rearing : Rumen Development

With Autumn calving underway, here’s a few SF tips.

To ensure that your calves are destined for optimised functionality and production, rumen development is one of your main priorities when rearing calves. You want to enable effective weaning where the calf has the ability to digest and utilise feeds high in fibre to establish efficient conversion into milk or meat.

What is the rumen?

The rumen is the one of the four stomachs within a ruminant which plays an important role in the digestive system for optimised growth, production, and health. Essentially, the rumen acts as a fermentation vat of microbes that allows ruminants to digest and convert fibres, sugars, starches, and proteins into functional sources of energy and protein.

Calf Rearing and Rumen Development.

Calves are born pre-ruminant with the ability to only digest milk. At this stage, the rumen is only approximately 30% of the digestive tract. This needs to increase significantly (to around 80%) to ensure a functional and effective breakdown of nutrients from the hi fibrous diet of a productive cow. As milk does not develop the rumen, the size, complexity, and functional activity of the rumen will only develop as the calf’s diet begins to incorporate feed and pasture.

Calf Meal and Rumen Development.

Quality calf meal plays a huge part in the development of the rumen. Meal based on quality grains such as maize and barley provide the starch essential for developing and stimulating the development of the rumen papillae. This development increases the surface area for absorbing the nutrients broken down by the microbes within the rumen. The more developed and dense the papillae, the better the absorption of nutrients from feed and pasture, setting the calf up for optimised growth and health.

SF Tips for Early Rumen Development:

- Ensure you are feeding a quality grain-based starter meal to get you calves off to the best start. Look for something that is textured and palatable, as this encourages saliva production and rumination, both of which play integral parts in the overall role of the rumen.

- Offer calf meal from day one – while the calves will only eat very little, the important thing is to introduce them to solid feed. A fresh handful each day for the first few days will be sufficient, until you notice their consumption increasing.

- Ensure fresh water is available at all times.


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