The benefits of optimal dairy heifer development and the shift required to focus on longer term resilience due to the irruption of metabolic programming in the field of calf nutrition was discussed in detail at the LifeStart Symposium organised by Trouw Nutrition in The Netherlands on the 17th and 18th October 2017.
With the theme of ‘Breaking down barriers: dairy heifer development beyond weaning growth’, the Symposium encouraged producers to adopt the LifeStart approach and learn how to utilise regulation of gene expression in the very first two months of life to achieve higher performance of their cows.
As well as metabolic programming, specific topics that were addressed at the LifeStart Symposium include development of the digestive tract, nutritional strategies pre and post-weaning and the role of early life nutrition in building immunity. The Symposium brought together academic scientists, researchers and industry leaders from across the world, specialising in dairy nutrition, nutritional immunology and ruminant production systems, as well as practicing vets, nutritionists and farmers, offering a ‘real life’ perspective on the science.
The LifeStart Program helps dairy operations achieve higher performance sustainably through its unique focus on the first two months of life. This period is a critical window of opportunity, as the nutrition a calf is exposed to in the first 60 days has been proven to have long-term effects on that animal’s performance capabilities throughout life.
A longitudinal study, currently in progress by Leonel Leal, has shown the early and mid-term benefits of the LifeStart methodology. So far, it has been discovered that early dietary interventions can lead to profound metabolic adaptations especially with energy metabolism and organ development. Leonel Leal presented data at the Symposium which showed feeding LifeStart levels (1.2 kg/d) of milk replacer to calves resulted in significantly different metabolic profiles one week before weaning (49 days of age) compared to calves receiving a more conventional provision of 0.6 kg/d. Leal said, ‘we have clear evidence of the LifeStart Program, pre-weaning, inducing significant changes in metabolite profiles, involving various metabolic pathways, through to 11 months of age.’
Harm de Wildt, CEO of Trouw Nutrition, explains the purpose of the LifeStart Symposium.
“Our company mission ‘Feeding the Future’ means to contribute to an increased productivity by optimum use of genetic capacity of animals around the globe and by feeding animals balanced nutritional diets in a sustainable manner by reducing the need for antibiotics. LifeStart concepts are supporting the health and development of young animals leading to improved milk yield and performance later in life. The LifeStart Program demonstrates how we translate our mission into a tangible approach for customers, with clear benefits based on science and application knowhow.”
We are in a time when new science is blooming in the field of calf nutrition. LifeStart science consolidates and leads industry investment into the latest research in young animal rearing and its impact on the future sustainable productivity, unlocking the full genetic potential of dairy cows.