But at Chris Pickering’s calf rearing unit in North Yorkshire, adding Safmannan has made a noticeable difference to calf health and liveweight gains.
“Our plan,” says Stuart Rhodes, Technical Sales Manager for Varley/Lloyds Animal Feeds, “was to trial Safmannan on a unit that was already achieving good results and see if even here we could find a discernible improvement in performance. I knew that if we could see a difference in the performance of calves at Chris’s, the product was really working.”
Chris, who farms at Hambleton View in Sutton, Thirsk, buys in high quality calves from a broad spectrum of breeds, both native and continental, at 10 to 14 days old. Some calves are sold at 10 to 12 weeks, while others are reared and sold on at a year old. But Chris is keen to stress that all calves need to be saleable at anytime.
“If a buyer comes to me at any point I want to be able to show them healthy, thriving, well performing animals. They need to look their absolute best at any stage in the rearing process,” he explains. “I’m looking to rear on health and performance, in a natural system, with reduced need for antibiotics or intervention.”
In 2017 Chris is planning to rear between 1,000 and 1,500 calves. By bringing in quality calves, housing them in a well-ventilated building, providing deep straw bedding and paying a high level of attention to detail in diet management, Chris is already achieving calf live weight gains (LWG) of between 1 and 1.5 kg per day. However, he was happy to challenge himself to achieve more by using Safmannan.
Chris and Stuart, with the help of Debby Brown, veterinary nutritionist for Phileo UK and Ireland, designed an on-farm trial that compared the performance of 50 young calves (27 black and white and 33 Limousin and Belgian Blue) given Safmannan in their Elite Calf Starter Pellets and 50 similar calves without the additive in their diet.
“The only thing we changed between the two sets of calves was the Safmannan in the diet,” explains Stuart. “All calves were regularly assessed using a weight band, which is something that Chris already did, and the difference in results were then compared at the end of a trial period.”
Over the period of the trial, calves with Safmannan included in the diet achieved a 1.6kg/day liveweight gain, while those on the standard Elite Starter Pellets achieved 1.2 kg liveweight gain/day.
“Calves on the Safmannan were also brighter in themselves,” says Chris. “We noticed a reduction in respiratory issues and saw practically no scouring. Calves were up and bright and keen to feed. We had a few with ringworm and that cleared up quickly. I particularly noticed that the black and white calves, which traditionally seem to stall a bit when they’re weaned, have continued to do well across the whole period.”
“Safmannan is a yeast cell wall product,” explains Stuart. “It helps support the growth of beneficial gut microflora, as well as supporting the animal’s own immune system.”
Chris continues; “Healthy, high performing young stock are key to my business. I aim to provide my customers with calves that have had the best possible start and will continue to perform well for them within their businesses. Adding Safmannan is a natural way of providing calves with that extra support at a crucial time in their lives”.