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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Impact of calf nutrition on overall production and productive life of cattle and buffaloes.


Poor feeding during pre-natal, neonatal and post-natal stages of calves leads to higher age at first calving and overall loss of productive life. Supplying calves an optimal nutrition right from the prenatal stage is vital for their growth and development, and it also allows calves to express their full genetic potential for milk production and reproductive efficiency during the entire lifespan. Maternal nutrition during the last trimester is considered important to genetic programming in utero. The influence of maternal nutrition also reaches the neonatal calf through hormones, growth factors and immune-stimulants incorporated into colostrum, milk and milk replacers. The key is to accelerate the rate of maturation of the calf's ruminal papillae (rumen wall) through the provision of calf starter and grower feeds and good-quality roughages, which favour the digestion of larger proportions of fodder at an early age. Feeding and management practices to promote these processes in crossbred calves are well established; however, in most of the developing nations little is known about these processes in buffalo calves and indigenous (Bos indicus) cow calves. Feeding buffalo calves and indigenous cow calves on scientific lines, and rearing them using improved management practices to assist the animals reach puberty sooner, are central factors for improving their productivity and productive life in tropical and sub-tropical regions. By 2050, people living in these regions are estimated to consume about 70% of the additional milk produced.