Nine million buffalo and cow calves are produced annually. Male calves are usually neglected by the farmer particularly in the commercial dairy production system and more than 40% mortality has been reported. Farmers are more interested to sell milk rather than to feed it to calves to earn more income. Rearing of calves at the age of 4 weeks on early weaning diets as a substitute of milk seems to be a potential source for quality veal/beef production. Thus efforts were made to develop early weaning diets for calf feeding.
Different feedstuffs were evaluated for their suitability i.e., palatability, physical structure and inclusion level in early weaning diet. Nutrient composition of these diets was also compared with whole milk for weight gain, feed: weight gain ratio and economic efficiency. Slaughtering studies were conducted to evaluate the carcass characteristic of calf meat. Early weaning diets for buffalo and cow calves have been standardized and full rearing protocols have been developed. Early weaning diet constitutes of cereal grains, vegetable meals, molasses, oil, vitamins and minerals and its nutrient composition is crude protein 23%, total digestible nutrient 82%, fat 6% and crude fibre 4%. Early weaning diet should be introduced to the calves at the age of 28-30 days. To begin with, this diet should be slowly and gradually fed to the calves along with the milk. This process of introducing early weaning diet and its complete shift to calves normally takes 10-15 days. Thereafter, milk feeding can be completely stopped and calves should be fed on early weaning diet on ad-libitum basis upto 4 months of age.
Early weaning diet can be used as substitute of milk for one month old calves. Normally, there is seventy nine percent reductions in feeding cost for production of one kg live body weight of calves. By adopting early weaning diet technology, 0.721 million ton milk can be spared for human consumption worth Rs 7200 million per annum. It can also facilitate the production of 0.504 million ton of quality beef valuing Rs 126 billion.
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Khan, A. G., A. Azim and I. H. Mirza. (2002). Response of feeding amino acids supplemented cottonseed meal on growth performance and digestibility of early-weaned cow calves. Asian. Aust. J. Anim. Sci. 15 (2): 184-187.