A Feed Additive to Stop Pathogens, Speed Up Calf Growth

Niels Ole Sørensen and Anni Høegh Christensen, who is in charge of the calves, by the outdoor calf stall with individual boxes.

During the milk-feeding period, growth has increased, on average, by 15kg in Jersey and crossbred calves. This is the result of adding Biotronic® PX Top3 to the feed at Munchgaard. Anni Høegh Christensen looks after the calves at the farm, and she can give precise figures, because the calves are weighed at birth and again when they are weaned and when milk feeding ends.

This means that it is well worth taking the extra trouble to mix Biotronic® PX Top3 with the milk replacer diet adjusted for the dry solids content, and accepting the slight extra cost per day of adding 6g per calf per day during the milk-feeding period. It meant better health, less work looking after the calves, increased growth, and finally, calving at an earlier age and stronger dairy cows.

Figure 1. Weight increase control at Munchgaard during the milk
feeding period after using Biotronic® – close to the target.

The cows are needed on this farm in West Zealand, Denmark, where Niels Ole Sørensen is responsible for farming the 320 hectares of land, while his brother, Jens Christian Sørensen, is in charge of the dairy area, which is expanding from the original production of 200 cows to 500, and converting from Danish Holstein to Jersey to exploit the facilities better. They are expanding with their own supplements, so every single dairy calf is very welcome. Biotronic® PX Top3 was introduced at Munchgaard by the veterinarian, Rikke Engelbrecht (PhD), who worked on trials with the West Jutland agricultural association Vestjysk Landboforening in 2015 and 2016, and was able to show a significant reduction in diarrhea in calves during the milk-feeding period, especially when the challenges came from Salmonella spp. and E. coli. The effects had been seen in pigs and poultry, but it was something new that the bacteriostatic effect was also seen in calves.

The reduction in calf diarrhea alone means increased growth, and this is increased further by a reduction of the pathogenic load in the milk and gastrointestinal tract.

Rikke Engelbrecht recommends using Biotronic® PX Top3 from day one in a calf’s life, or when feeding with colostrum ends, as it gives the milk a flavor that can lead to refusal if its use is started later.

Mixing is best done separately in water at 50ºC or in a little of the mixed milk replacer. It can then be added to the mixed milk replacer and fed to the calves immediately afterwards. Rikke Engelbrecht’s trials show that the greatest effects are seen in the first three weeks of the calf’s life, when it is most vulnerable, and in periods of stress, such as when calves are moved, changes in the weather, or other factors.