“Probiotic Revolution has literally transformed the way we feed our calves,”
Tangaroa – the 2012 inaugural winner of the Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award – has gone to establish a career which includes his contract milking position on a 180-hectare, 530-cow dairy farm in Mabel Bush, on the outskirts of Invercargill.
Larger than life
But, that is the tip of the ice-berg of this larger than life dairyman.
Tangaroa has also established Farm 4 Life, a social media page, which has 180,000 followers. And, he’s since leveraged that Facebook presence to promote a “Farm 4 Life HUB”, which is an online video learning platform delivering farming education 24/7. Its major sponsor is Farm Source.
His personal journey has led to the recent release of his autobiography.
Farming the foundation
However, his foundation remains the farm, and the exceptional team behind him at the Invercargill dairy. In the spring of 2020 he decided to introduce probiotics to their calf-rearing regime, which included 135 replacement heifer calves, and 30 bull calves.
They had had struggled with some health challenges the season before because of Cryptosporidium [scouring as a result of a parasite usually in calves under six weeks old].
“I’m really interested in gut health in humans,” Tangaroa said. “I know that a cow’s stomach pH is very important, and I I thought there must be heaps of room to move in the calf-rearing space with regard to treating scours, and potential growth using probiotics.
“Honestly, what did we have to lose? We’d had scours in our calves quite often the season before, and I wanted to change that.”
Probiotic Revolution’s Matt Collier recommended changing from twice-a-day to once-a-day feeding, and adding 1gm (per calf, per day) of Calf Xtreme in the milk.
Calf Xtreme includes unprecedented levels of micro-encapsulated probiotics, beneficial bacteria, digestive enzymes, and yeasts. It promotes immunity, recovery and improves digestion.
“We had seen the results of international studies where farmers were feeding their calves high rates of milk early on, which was proven to lay down the udder formation which was contributing to higher future production,” Matt said.
“We are able to safely achieve the same result in New Zealand using Calf Xtreme, because the live active yeast stabilises the rumen pH, while helping develop the rumen, along with that lactate-utilising bacteria (which includes 11 biological
compounds), in addition to the live active yeast.”
Tangaroa tests the change
Tangaroa decided to test one pen of the farm’s KiwiCross calves on the once-a-day feeding with Calf Xtreme. He immediately noticed a change.
“The calves on once-a-day just didn’t care that I turned up in the afternoon to feed the other calves,” Tangaroa said. “By the third afternoon, their body language told me that once-a-day was ok. So, from 12 days old pretty much all the calves were on
5.5 litres once-a-day.”
It was moved to 6.5 litres as they grew.
“What I also noticed over the next six weeks was the amount of additional condition they put on their back,” Tangaroa said. “They were in really good nick, and also none of them got the shits. Not a single heifer calf got sick with anything.”
Higher growth rates in shorter time-frames
He said they started “smashing” their meal and hay between four and six weeks of age, and by week six, 30% of the calves were content to either “take or leave” their milk.
“They were just happy, doing their thing,” Tangaroa said. “They were quiet, and their body language was great. We had no ‘flat’ calves.”
They had also concentrated on making sure all their calves had fresh meal and hay every day.
“We weaned our heifers at seven to eight weeks of age – which was two to four weeks earlier than normal – at the same weight as usual,” Tangaroa said.
“To be honest, it wasn’t until the heifers left the shed that we got hit with another bug, because we’d run out of Calf Xtreme.”
Why is immunity important?
He said the line of heifers was also more consistent, with much less “tail” than they usually experienced.
“We usually drench our calves when they go onto grass after weaning. We didn’t do that with these calves until they’d been out there for a month or so. And, they still looked really healthy. It wasn’t a problem.”
Matt said that the probiotics play a critical role in the development of a calf’s immune system. That’s because for the first two to three weeks of their life, calves have no immunity to disease or bacteria – save for the initial passive immunity transfer (PIT) of antibodies (IgG) they get from their dams’ colostrum.
By the time a calf is 12 hours old, that PIT number is as low as 20%. At 24 hours, the percentage has plummeted to just 5%. It is often described as a window of opportunity that is starts to slam shut as soon as the calf hits the ground.
“The lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract drives 70-80% of a mammal’s immunity, and the micro-encapsulated coating within Calf Xtreme allows the probiotics to be delivered to the rumen and come to life in the lower GI tract, where they can outcompete pathogenic bacteria and do their best work,” Matt Collier said.
Will Tangaroa recommend Calf Xtreme to his colleagues?
Will he use it again?
“Without question, and I’ll try to push my farm owners to allow us to use it for longer.”