11 January 2002

More milk powder for calves

Calf nutrition and food

assurance schemes were

some of the topics discussed

at the University of

Nottingham Feed Conference.

Richard Allison reports

DAIRY heifers must be fed more milk powder during their first three weeks than current practice on many rearing units to maximise future milk production, says one expert.

The aim of dairy calf rearing was to maintain a healthy animal and prepare her for future lactation, Provimi researcher Karine Tanan told delegates at the Nottingham Feed Conference.

"To maximise milk production, heifers should reach 60% of mature body weight by first service. This requires a growth rate of more than 0.8kg a day during their first three months."

These high growth rates can be achieved without excess body fat deposition and having to delay weaning by adjusting feed management. That involved ensuring adequate colostrum intakes and reassessing milk replacer composition, said Dr Tanan.

"Feeding adequate colostrum is crucial, as it can support growth rates of up to 0.5kg a day during the first three days, due to its high energy content. Aim for a colostrum intake of at least 3-4 litres a day."

"Colostrum also provides additional benefits, such as enhancing carbohydrate absorption in the gut, compared with calves fed milk replacer. This is despite the replacer having a similar fat, lactose and protein composition to colostrum."

One problem with feeding calves less than one month old was that the latest guidelines on nutrient requirements could underestimate energy requirement and over-estimate energy supply. That could easily hold back growth rates, she said.

In addition, the practice of feeding 0.5kg powder a day of a 20-22% protein milk replacer would only achieve gains of 0.4kg a day, half the required target, warned Dr Tanan. "Therefore, a number of recent studies have looked at growth responses to changing milk replacer feeding rates and composition."

Increasing intakes of milk powder to 0.8-1kg for a 50kg calf would boost weight gain to the desired level of more than 800g a day, she said. "Growth rates also respond to increased protein supply, with highest growth achieved at a protein level of about 22%. A higher protein supply also helps avoid excess body fat deposition in calves."

Similarly, body composition can be influenced by energy source. Milk replacers with more energy in the form of lactose instead of fat also led to lower fat deposition, she added. &#42

CALF NUTRITION

&#8226 Adequate colostrum crucial.

&#8226 Limit fat deposition.

&#8226 Liquid feed composition.

Health fears bring ban on cooking oil

USED cooking oils are set to be banned from animal feed later this year under EU proposals addressing the disease risk of feeding catering waste to livestock.

This new feed legislation built on the concern over the cause and spread of classical swine fever and foot-and-mouth in the UK, said the Food Standards Agencys, Bill Knock.

Cooking oils are exempt from the UK ban on feeding swill to pigs. But Mr Knock believed the oil itself was not a risk, it was the process of collecting oil from restaurants and catering facilities which may give rise to contamination.

"The ban will increase the problem of disposing of used cooking oil, including environmental consequences of illegal dumping. It will also push up the cost of including fat in compound feeds."

A preferred solution was fully traceable oil collection. But it had only recently become clear that the EC intended to include used cooking oil in the proposal, he said. &#42

Manure regulations lift costs for Netherlands

NEARLY half of manure and slurry in the Netherlands is transported to arable land or burned to meet environmental legislation, raising production costs.

At the Nottingham Feed Conference, CC-Nutricontrols research manager, Gert Hemke, told delegates that 90 farms a week were quitting the industry.

"All farms in the Netherlands require a licence to hold animals with a maximum manure application rate/ha. Land for manure contracts are now traded for disposing of surplus manure."

To help minimise transport costs, many producers separated dirty water and solids. Dirty water was applied to land nearby, while solids were transported to land hired for manure application, said Mr Hemke.

"In addition, exceeding quotas on nitrogen and phosphorus surpluses results in costly fines. With phosphorus, this equates to about £1.33/kg/ha extra."

The main strategy being adopted to minimise surpluses was to formulate diets which closely matched animal requirements, he said.

"One example is the new Dutch model for predicting dairy cow phosphorus requirements. It provides a more accurate prediction of needs, allowing a fall of 10-15% in phosphorus excretion in dung."

With pigs, a phase feeding system to match requirements at different growth stages can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses by 3% and 9%, respectively. An extra benefit was a lower feed cost, added Mr Hemke. &#42

Cereals at weaning

HIGHLY digestible pre-cooked cereals can boost pig gut health at the critical weaning period.

Weaning was an abrupt event where the supply of protective immunoglobulins were withdrawn at a time when the piglets immunity mechanisms were still being constructed, said SCA Nutritions Mike Varley.

"The animal is also having to adapt to a new diet, fresh accommodation and learning to use a novel drinking system."

These combined effects of increased stress and milk withdrawal reduced piglets immune response to pathogens. That resulted in diarrhoea and lower post-weaning feed intakes, he said.

"One solution is to delay weaning. This allows a greater level of gut protection to develop."

Or an effective pre-weaning creep feed can help prepare the immune system to the changes at weaning. Highly digestible pre-cooked cereals in a post-weaning diet could also help overcome the withdrawal of antibody support from milk, he added. &#42

HIGHLY digestible pre-cooked cereals can boost pig gut health at the critical weaning period.

Weaning was an abrupt event where the supply of protective immunoglobulins were withdrawn at a time when the piglets immunity mechanisms were still being constructed, said SCA Nutritions Mike Varley.

"The animal is also having to adapt to a new diet, fresh accommodation and learning to use a novel drinking system."

These combined effects of increased stress and milk withdrawal reduced piglets immune response to pathogens. That resulted in diarrhoea and lower post-weaning feed intakes, he said.

"One solution is to delay weaning. This allows a greater level of gut protection to develop."

Or an effective pre-weaning creep feed can help prepare the immune system to the changes at weaning. Highly digestible pre-cooked cereals in a post-weaning diet could also help overcome the withdrawal of antibody support from milk, he added. &#42

Survey shows price still rules in product choice

MANY consumers are still unaware of food assurance schemes and price remains the main factor influencing choice of product, according to a new survey.

The Food Standards Agency has recently carried out a consumer survey on food production, said the agencys Richard Harding at the Nottingham Feed Conference. "This is part of the agencys contribution to the Policy Commission on Farming and Food.

"The survey showed that more than 80% of consumers stated price as the main influence in grocery shopping. Secondary factors include intensity of production, animal welfare and environmental impact."

But what were the consequences of meeting consumer demands by providing food produced within less intensive production systems and with reduced environmental impact, asked Mr Harding.

"Yields would fall and prices would increase, which happens to be the main factor affecting choice. This could lead to increased imports, as not all consumers are prepared to spend more on food."

The average UK consumer spent 16% of income on food, but for the poorest 10% of consumers, food may account for 33% of income. That was why price remained so important, said Mr Harding.

"Labelling was also identified as an important issue. Consumers have little knowledge of farming practices and demand more information. Clear labelling on food should include origin and production system used."

One example is the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme, which had seen big rises in egg sales. That indicated the value of assurance schemes in raising standards, he said.

"But they must be transparent and meaningful, providing benefits to both producers and consumers. The survey highlighted concerns on the effectiveness of such schemes."

He believed many consumers had little awareness of the different schemes, with confusion about logos and their meaning. As a result, the agency was undertaking a wide review of food assurance schemes. &#42

Diet is key to milk fatty acid

ENHANCING the fatty acid composition of milk and meat could be achieved by altering diets to stimulate insulin production, said University of Nottingham researcher Andy Salter

He told delegates at the feed conference that national targets to reduce human saturated fat intake had not been met.

"Only modest reductions have been achieved by encouraging reduced intake of meat and milk products. A greater impact could be achieved by enhancing the fatty acid composition of milk and meat."

With ruminants, only limited success had been achieved by adjusting the diet due to rumen effects. Unsaturated fatty acids were synthesised by ruminants in tissue and the mammary gland, but that was restricted by the low activity of an enzyme, stearoyl CoA desaturase (SCD), said Dr Salter.

"Studies at Nottingham University have shown that stimulating insulin production by feeding high concentrate diets can boost SCD activity and the unsaturated fatty acid content of sheep meat. Similarly, this could also apply to milk fat synthesis in dairy cows."

Increasing SCD activity may also raise levels of conjugated linoleic acid in ruminant meat. That fatty acid had been reported to have many health benefits, including cancer protection and lowering of blood lipids, said Dr Salter. &#42