26. February 2024

Farmer's Guide: The Path to Robust Calves

DLG and Vilofoss' new award-winning product, E-Force, results in more robust slaughter calves in the period after weaning. This effect is also felt east of Holstebro, Denmark at the farm Lille Hedegaard, where a young employee proposed testing the product.

Jesper Hedegaard runs Lille Hedegaard near Holstebro, where he delivers about 750 slaughter calves to the Danish Crown on an annual basis. Leanna Pedersen also works at Lille Hedegaard, and at the Calf Day in Herning Congress Center in 2022, she became aware of E-Force.

"I thought it sounded exciting, so I asked Jesper if we should test it here," says Leanna, who is a trained farmer and has worked on the farm for two years. Since then, E-Force has become an integral part of the startup phase for the calves.

Preparing calves for a safe weaning

E-Force is a feed supplement with a high content of antioxidants, also known as alpha-tocopherol, and is given to strengthen young calves during the weaning period. This is exactly what Jesper Hedegaard saw in the young calves when he began administering E-Force.

"I think what we have today is more robust calves that take up more feed, and fewer that get sick after weaning. We also see a significantly lower mortality rate. I do not know if it is exclusively thanks to the supplement of alpha-tocopherol, but there is a clear difference between before and after we started using E-Force," says Jesper, who adds that they began using E-Force at the end of 2022.

Jesper Hedegaard has been running Lille Hedegaard since 2001; back then, he had 50 calves. But the job as a part-time farmer quickly turned into a full-time job and, through organic growth, Jesper now has slaughter calves and 220 hectares of crop farming.

Increased production results and robust calves with E-Force

The improvements at Lille Hedegaard have also been noticed by Lene Agerskov, a cattle veterinarian at LVK, the Agricultural Veterinary Consulting Service.

"At Lille Hedegaard, we have seen a fine trend both in growth and health. There could be many reasons. Jesper has adjusted the allocation of milk, with a greater focus on vaccination, and he started supplementing antioxidants in the form of alpha-tocopherol. Summing up, Jesper now has an even more well-functioning farm," says Lene Agerskov.

Lene Agerskov has examined the development in the herd's production results in DMS, which show that growth has increased by about four percent since E-Force was introduced into the herd. At the same time, mortality, which was already very low, has been further reduced.

It is a well-known and well-documented challenge that the calves' level of alpha-tocopherol in the blood dips when they no longer consume milk. At the same time, it is also proven that too low alpha-tocopherol status results in more sick calves, probably because alpha-tocopherol is the body's most important antioxidant. It protects the body against harmful substances and is consumed by the body's metabolic processes as the calf grows. To stabilize the alpha-tocopherol level in the calves before milk is completely removed, DLG and Vilofoss recommend that the administration of E-Force is phased in two weeks before weaning and continues for three weeks after.

Jesper Hedegaard has chosen to use the product right after the weaning of the calves because he believes that the effect is good – especially when it comes to the number of treatments for diseases, which have been significantly reduced.

"It is much more fun to take care of healthy animals than sick ones. Even though we do not know if it is entirely because of E-Force that we have a stable production, we have chosen to extend the period when we administer the product in the feed," says Jesper Hedegaard.

E-Force can be obtained both as a feed supplement to be added via the daily feed ration and in some starter mixes.

E-Force in brief

E-Force contains alpha-tocopherols extracted from plants. Alpha-tocopherol from plants has a much higher bioavailability than the chemically produced ones, which are in acetate form.

Alpha-tocopherol from plants, on the other hand, is difficult to handle as it easily degrades. To prevent degradation of the naturally extracted alpha-tocopherols, they are encapsulated in a special fat matrix in E-Force.

This technology was recognized with a silver medal at Eurotier 2022.

Read more.