Celtilait Up !: From heifer to dairy cow: building up productivity

[lead]Celtilait has placed the successful breeding of heifers, its future dairy cows, at the heart of its high precision feed strategy. In fact, research findings show that a high growth rate between birth and weaning stage increases milk production during the first lactation.[/lead]

To optimise growth, and therefore economically support dairy farmers, Celtilait has been studying calf’ specific requirements as well as available raw materials. The outcome of this research work is a breakthrough milk replacer : Celtilait Up!

Interview of Xavier Bilcot, farmer and member of Celtilait breeding network

GAEC des Eoliennes – Lanrivoare (29)

In June 2007, Xavier Bilcot joined his brother Thierry on the dairy farm in Lanrivoare (29) and founded the GAEC des Eoliennes. With 130 dairy cattle on the farm, Xavier and Thierry used to feed their heifers solely with whole milk. In 2014, they joined Celtilait. Despite the change from whole milk to milk replacer, meaning closer attention and greater precision, they would never go back to the former product.

Xavier’s feedback is positive

My calves have a better growth rate and their coat is finer and smoother. When fed with whole milk, heifer weight was the same but their size was smaller: they were not growing fast enough. I did not pay much attention to the ration; it could vary from 3 to 4 litres per meal, morning and evening. With milk replacer, I just follow the feeding programme and it is more efficient!

These results are also positively affecting the farm’s productivity: since the change to milk replacer, calves are weaned earlier. Xavier explains

We supply more milk to the dairy cooperative.

For a test campaign, run by Celtilait breeding network, the Bilcot brothers fed half their heifers with Celtilait Up! and the other half with a milk replacer containing 50% skimmed milk powder.

Xavier’s vote goes to Celtilait Up! : no difference between the two products in terms of feed, good dilution and no deposit.

Even when I rinse my hands with cold water, it washes off a lot more easily!

For the purposes of the tests, the heifers had to be weighed regularly. Though this task can seem fastidious at first, Xavier soon took to the routine!

Weighing the calves gives me a more objective and realistic perspective. Before, we weaned calves too late because they were not heavy enough for our liking. Now, when I have time, I regularly weigh the calves to check on their growth. Actually, when you see that a calf has a smooth growth rate, you like to monitor their weight gain!

Xavier and Thierry eventually plan to invest in scales to weigh heifers during insemination in order to gain 2 to 3 months of calving age.

We are always worried that they won’t be heavy enough. By weighing them, we get precise values.

A revolution in milk replacer products

The development of Celtilait Up! feed is based on originality and offers advantages for producers:

  • Economic leverage for dairy farmers aimed to use calf growth as a way to make productivity gains in dairy facilities, using precise knowledge of the growth potential of current genetic breeds of dairy cows and their nutritional needs.
  • A mix of zootechnical and nutritional innovations stemming from 4 years of R&D in veal and breeding calves:
    • Measuring the growth potential of dairy calves
    • Updating the energy and protein requirements (amino acids) according to the weight of the calves and their growth rate
    • Zootechnical tests since 2010 to determine the strict requirements of calves for the first 8 amino acids
    • Validation of the new feed concept in breeding calves
  • Development of a feed which responds exactly to the needs of calves at a lower cost –rich in nutrients which favours growth (energy and digestible amino acids) and prepares animals for a long career (bone formation and solidity of stance).
  • Possibility for dairy farming to reduce feed waste in the environment and manage digestive health problems with concrete feed choices.
  • An alternative to benchmark milk replacers on the market: milk replacer containing 50% skimmed milk powder. Tests conducted in 2014 on heifers in Celtilait breeding network revealed that growth rate with Celtilait Up! was equivalent to a milk replacer containing 50% skimmed milk powder.

As a concentrate of innovations in zootechnics and nutrition, Celtilait UP! is the groundbreaking result of Celtilait’s main research interest: high precision nutrition.


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