DURHAM — Research being conducted on calves and heifers at the University of New Hampshire is geared at helping dairy farmers in the state.
Professor of Dairy Cattle Management Peter Erickson works in the field of dairy cattle nutrition. He and his team of students are exploring growth additives, using brewers grains for feed, and increasing the uptake of antibodies for some of the littlest members at the UNH Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center.
Last week, Ph.D. student Tess Stahl, of Hackettstown, N.J., explained the results of the work she recently completed comparing the supplements sodium butyrate and monensin, analyzing their effects on heifers.
Stahl explained that monensin has done well on the market for stimulating growth in heifers using their metabolism. Sodium butyrate aids in efficient digestion for increased growth, she said.
Both products had the same results in terms of growth performance and health response, Stahl said. A total of 40 heifers were used in the study.
“I wanted to learn more on calf and heifer development,” Stahl said.
“And that project was perfect to kind of fostering my understanding of heifer development.”
Erickson said the European Union has banned monensin so the results from their sodium butyrate research may also help farmers overseas.
UNH is one of the few colleges in the country that studies calves and heifers. Much of that is due to the fact that people in the field pursue other avenues of study.
“My specialty is the babies. I never thought I would say that, but it is,” Erickson said.
Two of the other important research projects taking place at UNH involve feeding heifers brewers grains and reducing the stress of calves during birth to enhance their abilities to absorb antibodies from their mothers.
Erickson said Ph.D. student Eric Hatungimana, from Rwanda, wants to see if brewers grains can be used to feed cows before they reach the age of maturity. There are a number of craft brewers in New Hampshire that have the residue, which is collected at the end of the mashing process.
Erickson said there are some challenges to using brewers grains, but if it can be preserved well and is healthy for heifers, it could cut feed prices in half for those young cows.
“Economically, for the dairy producer in New Hampshire, or New England, it’s going to pay off,” Erickson said.
Meaghan Clark, of Bow, is seeing if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help calves absorb antibodies from colostrum, or the mother’s first milk, for her Ph.D. studies.
“Anything we can do to enhance the uptake of those antibodies, the healthier the calf will be. And the healthier the calf, the easier it is to raise, the faster it grows, the less vet costs you have, so it all revolves around profits back to the producer,” Erickson said.
According to Granite State Dairy Promotion, a nonprofit organization in Concord, there are 96 dairy farms with an average of 130 milking cows per farm in the state.
New Hampshire’s dairy industry impacts state and local economies with more than $140 million in total output, 3,500 jobs and more than $17 million in labor income, according to the organization’s website.