Joint research programme focuses on rumen development

AgResearch and Fiber Fresh have released their first trial results on rumen development in calves, as part of an ongoing research collaboration.

Fiber Fresh is a calf and equine nutrition company based in Reporoa with an active scientific R&D division.

The recent AgResearch trial, which began in 2013, indicates that high nutritional fibres help promote rumen development in calves. The development of the rumen is important for the young calf to enable transition from milk to pasture.

The rumen development study showed fibre-reared calves had 18% heavier rumens, better papillae development in some parts of the rumen and greater vascularity compared to calves fed on conventional meal-based systems.

Calves reared on the fibre diet also exhibited better rumen absorption capacity at weaning and were slightly more efficient in feed usage (2.4% apparent feed efficiency).

Those calves are also involved in a lifetime study to evaluate the effects of nutrition during rearing on meat quality and production. A number of other trials are also planned as part of the ongoing research programme, including a lifetime trial of heifers to establish the impact of early intervention on future milk production.

Fiber Fresh national business manager Shona Goss says the relationship with AgResearch came about through wanting to provide robust, independent information to farmers about Fiber Fresh products.

“We had farmers claiming results they’d seen by using Fiber Fresh products and we had conducted a number of in-house trials. But ultimately we need robust, independent scientific evidence.

“We believe there is a better way to rear healthy, productive animals and we anticipate this research will contribute to a better understanding of calf nutrition and the development of better products to help farmers achieve the results they’re after.

“And it is based on a natural concept of developing the rumen for life. Long-term goals for long-term gains.”

AgResearch science team leader Dr Sue McCoard says the relationship with Fiber Fresh fits well alongside existing animal nutrition science research.

“AgResearch has a focus on early life nutrition for ruminants. Our programme is based on developing robust scientific knowledge that can contribute to the development of best practice guidelines to improve calf rearing on-farm through nutrition.”

The ongoing Fiber Fresh research investment also looks at growth performance, rumen development, feed conversion efficiency, immune function and overall health, meat, and milk production and quality. This approach will provide the opportunity to put the results from the early rearing work in the context of the performance of the animal throughout its life.

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