Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften HAFL, 3052 Zollikofen

Solid feed intake and weight development of suckler calves

As part of a farm survey, data on the solid feed intake and liveweight development of suckler calves from birth to the age of 305 days were collected and analysed. The data were used to derive estimation formula on weight development and solid feed intake of suckler calves in Switzerland. The analysis showed that weight development in suckler calves is influenced by the calves’ age and gender as well as by the dam’s breed type. The latter is likely attributable to differences in the dams’ milk yield. The weight gain of calves of F1 dams (beef breed × dairy breed) was 13 % higher and as much as 23 % higher compared to pure beef breeds in their first (up to 150 days) and second growth phases respectively. From birth to the age of 150 days an increase in feed intake from 0 to 3.4 kg DM/day of solid feed was calculated; for the second growth phase from 151 to 305 days the calculated solid feed intake increased from 3.5 to 7.0 kg DM/day. The formulas used to estimate the solid feed intake of suckler calves take account of the liveweight (LW) or age of the calves, and for the second growth phase they additionally take account of the dam’s breed type. The dams’ milk yield also appears to influence the calves’ solid feed intake. From the age of 150 days onward, calves of F1 dams ingested significantly less solid feed than calves of pure beef breeds. The calculated figures for the total forage intake of suckler calves up to 150 days of age are comparable to the reference values set out in the Principles of Agricultural Crop Fertilisation in Switzerland (PRIF). However, the total forage intake from birth up to 305 days of age was shown to be 32 % higher (793 v. 600 kg DM) than the PRIF reference value, with LW also exceeding the PRIF value by 19 % (418 v. 350 kg). Given these differences in LW, the total forage intake is not directly comparable to the PRIF reference values.

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