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Thread: Dairy Youngstock Rearing on Cake Straw then turning out.

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Cumbria
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    Dairy Youngstock Rearing on Cake Straw then turning out.

    We currently have around 200 dairy youngstock which we take great pride in, almost rearing on money no object system.

    From weaning until they are pd+ they are reared on straw and 3-4kg of a18-20% cake. Then moved onto add lib silage.

    The only exception is when are bulling heifers are turned out in batches of 15 and get 1.5kg of cake.

    But last year we turned a couple of batches out, and they have gone downhill incredible day looking nipped up hollow eyed and dirty tailed within 3to four days.

    This batch in particular we tested for everything last year to no avail and eventually after about 3 months they kind of got over it.

    We were blaming everything eventually blaming one particular pasture, this year we turned out a similar bunch onto this field and exactly the same they looked horrendous!

    When talking to someone they said the change from straw to grass is to big!

    Thinking about it their rumens may not even have the bacteria to break down grass.

    So we took them off the pasture and put some smaller bullocks which had been reared on silage and they look great, they have never looked back.

    So. . . . Do people think this sounds plausible and if so should we put them into big bales for a week or two to help them adjust?

    Do other people have similar problems?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    West Northants
    Posts
    1,155

    Re: Dairy Youngstock Rearing on Cake Straw then turning out.

    It's plausible that there would be a time needed for the rumen to adjust to a change in diet but I'd be surprised if they are completely unprepared for it. The cell walls of the grass and straw will both be cellulose based and assuming they were mothered for a period at birth they will have a population of bacteria (albeit small) that are able to adapt to the new diet. This can typically take 10 days or so and if the transition is too great can cause quite a shock to the pre-existing bacterial populations geared up for straw and cereals dying off as well as the small population adapting to the new feed. Whether your transition is too great though I don't know.

    It would certainly be good practice to adapt their diet before turnout with hay offering some middle ground between where you are now and where they are heading to. It may be worth introducing it a few weeks before turnout and offering it for a week or so after too in order to smooth the transition. You are also moving from a very fibrous diet with straw and cereals offering lots of rumen stimulation to a lot less fibrous diet with spring grass which may be passing through them very quickly so it may also be worth offering a bit of straw outside too; if this isn't wanted you'll know within a day or so and if it is they'll clean it up pretty quickly. We offer straw and hay to suckler cows at grass in the spring and it is generally taken until around now when they decide that they don't want it any more; young unsupported calves would be more susceptible to this I suspect.

    As a suckler producer my cows rear my calves so I may have overlooked something really obvious, sorry if that is the case but I thought an answer was better than no answer. Have you talked it through with the vet at all as if it is having a severe effect it would be worth looking in to in a bit more detail.
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