The diet adaptation period is widely considered the critical time in which nutritional management practices can promote or impair subsequent performance and health.
- Adaptation period is defined as the initial weeks of the finishing period.
- Primary objectives are to create a basis for optimal dry matter intake, rumen health, daily live weight gain (DLWG) and feed conversion efficiency (FCE).
- Transition from a fibre based growing ration to a mainly starch based finisher ration has to be done gradually to allow the bacteria in the rumen to adjust and reduce the possibility of digestive upsets.
- For the first few days, good quality roughage should be offered ad libitum with limited compound feed.
- Gradually decrease the amount of roughage and increase the amount of compound feed, starting at 3-4kgs and increase by 1kg every 3 days.
- Ensure availability of clean fresh water at all times.
- Acidosis can be a major concern when feeding higher levels of cereals due to rapidly fermentable carbohydrate causing a drop in rumen pH. Buffers (Rumen buffer, Acid Guard 4) and yeasts such as Trouwferm can be added to the diet to stabilise rumen pH.
- Yeasts are most effective in the diet when used in combination with buffers. Inclusion of yeast optimises rumen health, increases feed intake and improves FCE.
- Check rumen fill as this indicates dry matter intake. Also, ensure majority of animals are chewing their cud, as it is a vital sign of good rumen function.
- Monitor animal health during this period and maintain a dosing and vaccination program. Coughing can be alleviated by the use of respiratory products such as Pulmosure.
- Management has to be focused on the avoidance of stress. Achieve this by avoiding overcrowding, ensuring sufficient feed space, optimising ventilation and maximising animal comfort.