We have just completed the first weights on a mob of poor-doing calves that have been enrolled in the GrowSmart programme by their owner. The calves, weighed on the 21st March, are currently 41kg behind target, and therefore will need a very aggressive intervention plan if they are to reach industry targets by mating.
The traditional model for "ill-thrift" investigations looks at four main areas that are likely to be involved when animals aren't reaching targets. In order of importance these are:
- Nutrition (or lack of)
- Trace Element (deficiencies)
- Other Disease
These investigations therefore require a holistic approach to the farm and situation. "Feeding More" isn't always going to solve the problem if the underlying issue is one of parasitism, trace elements, or other disease.
On this farm a combination of factors appear to be involved, however one of the main issues appears to be a very high pasture larval contamination. The typical picture of larval contamination is a farm that has:
- had a lot of young stock grazing the paddock over a few years
- the calves usually look "wormy" even soon after a drench
- often eating low on the grass sward
Unless addressed, a high pasture larval level will work to decrease growth rates by decreasing voluntary feed intakes (markedly!).
To overcome this, we have opted to use ALPHEUS anti-parasitic capsules in the calves. These capsules have been on the market for a couple of years now and have shown great promise on these farms with high challenge situations. The capsules, which have a levamisole and oxfendazole primer and abamectin payload, last 125 days, and are suitable to cattle up to 300kg. They should kill all incoming larvae on a daily basis, and therefore negate the effects of contaminated pasture. Alpheus capsules are now competitively priced.
Watch this space - we will re-weigh this mob in another month and see what difference the capsules have had on our ability to properly feed these calves. If your calves appear to be behind, get in touch with one of our vets ASAP to discuss the holistic GrowSmart package.