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The New, Brighter FUTURE STARS

Alta FUTURE STARS are new, improved, and brighter than ever before.

They put focus on the first two things that matter in creating your best future herd:
1 – creating more pregnancies, and 2 – delivering more live, healthy, newborn calves.

FUTURE STAR logo

When exploring these new, brighter FUTURE STARS, high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status remains a key benefit. However, there’s three main reasons we’re shifting our focus away from calving ease, toward creating more live, healthy calves:

  1. The official calving ease traits are updated to more accurately reflect actual incidence of calving difficulty in the USA population. This has made thresholds for SCE no longer relevant
  2. Progressive dairies focus on efficiency. And a simple way to improve efficiency is to first, create more pregnancies, and second deliver more live, healthy calves.
  3. We wanted to update our brighter FUTURE STAR to improve the relevance and efficiency for the progressive producer!

 

Let’s put the new SCE into perspective

Sire Calving Ease has been a traditional ‘threshold trait’ for many, many years. Dairies have set limits at <8% to make sure they’re doing everything they can from a genetic standpoint to have fewer difficult calvings.  The current data on actual calving difficulty proves that modern genetics like Alta FUTURE STARS have done their job to decrease the incidence of difficult calvings down to a rare occurrence.

So now it’s time to shift our mindset – because SCE thresholds are a thing of the past. Think about this – looking at the new proof values today, to be better than “average” a bull needs to be lower than 2.2 for SCE! If you maintain ‘average’ as a threshold for SCE, what does that mean for a bull with an excellent profile, high ranking on your customized genetic plan… but at 2.3 SCE…?

Up until August 2020 proof day, you would welcome a bull at 5% for SCE as no cause for concern. But – that’s now more than 2x higher than the new average!

Sire Stillbirth does NOT equal DOAs

Stillbirth traits measure death in the first 48 hours, not just the number of calves born dead. And 48 hours is actually the critical first days of life and investment we make in our calves. It equates to more than 3 colostrum feedings, ear tags, labor, and handling to move to the hutches.  We want to see as many calves as possible successfully grow beyond these early days.

And the new calving trait updates tell us that stillbirth rates are still higher than desired – certainly higher than calving ease. Any number of failed calves is too many – they are a real opportunity cost and an important variable in our clients’ heifer inventory management plans. So that’s why stillbirth traits now contribute to our brighter FUTURE STAR criteria!

FUTURE STARS – driving value, then and now

To recap, keep these two points in mind as you explore the value that FUTURE STARS have delivered to this point, and the new value they will deliver going forward.

1. FUTURE STARS helped solve the issue of calving difficulties
They did this through a clear and intentional focus first on real observations for calving ease and remained a reliable option for easy calvings once genomic data was included.

2. FUTURE STARS now address the first two things that matter in building the best future herd
We always say that genetics don’t matter if you don’t first create a pregnancy. And that rings true as loud as ever. What we often forget is that genetics also don’t matter if the calf is not still alive after the first 48 hours.

Only high fertility CONCEPT PLUS sires are eligible to earn FUTURE STAR status. And FUTURE STAR sires are carefully selected to deliver more live, healthy calves, by focusing on the stillbirth traits.

 

FUTURE STARS have the genetics to create value and improve efficiency in your herd. Benefit from a dual focus on the first two steps to creating your best future herd: 1 – creating more pregnancies and 2 – delivering more healthy newborn calves that successfully make the move from colostrum to milk.

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Help your calves become future Alta 4-EVENT COWS

The journey to 4-EVENT COW status starts long before an animal enters the fresh pen. In fact, that journey starts in the hours immediately after she is born.

The most important meal a calf will consume is her first one – colostrum. That’s partly because a calf is most vulnerable in those moments right after birth. A newborn calf needs the immunity and energy that only high-quality colostrum can give her.

To make sure the first meal for each of your calves is as effective as possible, keep these 3 Qs of colostrum in mind.

THE 3 Q’S OF COLOSTRUM

1. QUICKLY

A calf’s ability to absorb the immunity from colostrum declines at a rapid rate after birth. You can see from the graph, that the ideal time to feed colostrum to a newborn calf is within the first 1-2 hours after birth. After six hours, the percent IgGs she can absorb and utilize is already significantly lower.

Recommendations say you should also offer a second feeding of colostrum within the next eight hours to ensure that each calf receives the energy she needs to get the best start in life.

White DG. Colostral supplementation in ruminants. The Compendium on continuing education for the practicing veterinarian 1993; 15:335-345.

2. QUALITY

In an ideal world, every dam will produce the amount and quality of colostrum that her calf needs. Unfortunately, ideal isn’t the norm. When colostrum quality is too low, a calf will not receive enough IgGs. That means she’s likely to experience Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). FPT has a life-long impact on the growth and future production of affected calves.

Since we know that maternal colostrum can vary greatly from one cow to the next, that’s why it’s important to test maternal colostrum from every fresh cow. Use an optical or digital % brix refractometer to estimate the colostrum quality.

To interpret the % brix results and know what to do with the colostrum that mother nature has provided, follow these colostrum feeding recommendations:

% Brix readingQuality levelAction
> 25%EXCELLENTNo need to supplement maternal colostrum
22%-25%GOODSupplement maternal colostrum if excellent results are desired
18%-22%ADEQUATESupplement maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum
<18%POORReplace maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum

3. QUANTITY

In order for a calf to receive the total immunity and energy she needs, it’s critical to feed her enough colostrum. That generally means feeding 10% of the calf’s body weight in the first feeding. When you know the quality is good, you can also follow these guidelines:

  • OPTIMAL: 3L – 4L colostrum, which equals 150-200 grams IgG
  • SUFFICIENT: 2L – 3L colostrum, which equals 100-150 grams IgG

A healthy, newborn calf is the future of your herd. Help her become a healthy, profitable Alta 4-EVENT COW by following the 3 Q’s of colostrum management. When maternal colostrum does not pass the test for quality or quantity, be sure to have Calf’s Choice Total colostrum ready to fill the void.

 

Adapted, in part, from the May 2015 Colostrum Counsel Newsletter from SCCL, titled “Contribution of good colostrum feeding practices to the welfare of the newborn calf.”

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Two Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your maternity pen

Everyone knows that the journey to 4-EVENT COW status starts at freshening.

Or does it?

Think about your maternity pen. In there, you have the new dam and her female calf. The cow just started her journey to 4-EVENT COW status by recording FRESH as her first mark in the 4-EVENT COW circle.

The one we often forget about when thinking of Alta 4-EVENT COWS is her female calf. If this newborn is not given the best possible start, right from birth, she may not even get the chance to record that first mark in the 4-EVENT COW cycle.

So how do we help both of them become future Alta 4-EVENT COWS?

Getting THE COW off to the right start after calving

When your farm’s transition, maternity, fresh cow and nutrition programs are in good order, you up your chances of creating more of those healthy, trouble-free Alta 4-EVENT COWS – both from the calves born and cows that freshen.

Future reproductive troubles and health challenges often stem back to the transition period. So to help you get more of your cows on track to 4-EVENT status, we’ve got two things you can implement in your management strategy.

1. Activity and rumination monitoring systems like Alta COW WATCH will keep you ahead of any illness – usually before a major problem even occurs. With the repro, health and welfare of the cow in mind, Alta COW WATCH alerts you of potential health troubles throughout a cow’s lactation. This is especially critical in the fresh pen, because it allows you to use preventive measures instead of reactionary treatment. That will save you time and labor, and treatment costs, and give you peace of mind.

Alta COW WATCH logo for Facebook

2. A nutritional calcium supplement, like RumiLife® CAL24™ given at calving, will get your cows off to the right start. CAL24 is the simplest way to promote proper calcium levels so you can also avoid the fresh cow problems that often accompany subclinical milk fever. Plus, you can give a full dose of two CAL24 boluses at once, right after calving, so you don’t need to catch each cow again 12 hours later. That saves time, labor, and stress on you and the cow.

Image of RumiLife CAL24 boluses and boxes

Getting THE CALF off to the right start at birth

She’s still a couple years away, but this newborn calf can be a future Alta 4-EVENT COW if you give her the best care, right from the start. That includes keeping a clean environment, offering a low-stress entrance into the world, and remembering the 3 Q’s of colostrum after she’s born.

  1. Quickly – feed colostrum as soon as possible, and ideally within two hours after birth for optimal transfer of immunity
  2. Quantity – ensure that you feed colostrum with enough fat and enough IgGs
    • 100 grams of IgG is the minimum amount a calf needs
    • 150-200 grams of IgG is the gold standard to give that calf the best possible start
  1. Quality – if you use maternal colostrum, test it first with the Brix refractometer. Use the following guidelines to know whether a colostrum replacement or supplement, like Calf’s Choice Total® (CCT) Colostrum is needed.
    • Brix < 18%: Replace maternal colostrum with CCT.
    • Brix = 18%-22%: Supplement maternal colostrum with CCT.
    • Brix = 22%-25%: Supplementation is optional for excellent passive transfer of immunity.
    • Brix > 25%: No supplement is required.

The first meal is the most important one that a calf will ever have. It’s a known fact that calves have fewer health problems when they’re given the best immunity and energy in their first meal – colostrum. Studies show that proper colostrum management lends way to higher average daily gains (ADG), which in turn yields higher production levels once that calf freshens in for the first time.

So in that calf’s first hours, keep these 3 Q’s of colostrum in mind, to help set her up for a successful future as an Alta 4-EVENT COW.

Image of CCT Colostrum bags and pail options

Help them both become Alta 4-EVENT COWS

The calf and cow in your maternity pen can both be future 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. Start them on their way by getting them off to the right start after calving and the right start at birth.

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to see how you can incorporate Alta COW WATCH, RumiLife CAL24, and CCT Colostrum in your herd, or learn more about each, at the links below:

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