The benefits of feeding colostrum/milk with the Trusti Tuber which has a tube that is flexible for its whole length, has been demonstrated in a trial. Compared to a ‘rigid’ feeder, the full-length flexibility of the Trusti Tuber allowed feeding to be done more quickly. Calves also showed fewer behavioural and physical signs of stress.
The Trusti Tuber was designed by New Zealand vet Ursula Haywood: it has a mouthpiece which sits comfortably against the calf’s muzzle. A soft flexible tube is then passed through the mouthpiece, its flexibility making it easy for the calf to swallow it down. This swallowing action directs the tube over the airway and safely into the oesophagus.
The trial was carried out on a New Zealand dairy farm by a farmer experienced in tube-feeding. Calves of less than 4 days old and of mixed breeds and sizes were split into two groups of 15. One group was fed 2 litres of colostrum with a ‘rigid’ feeder – i.e. with a stiff-ended tube, and the other with the Trusti Tuber. Milk flowed down the Trusti Tuber more quickly and the time taken was 73 seconds compared to 132 seconds with the rigid feeder. Calves also kicked (struggled) and bawled less, and had a heart rate increase of only 4 beats per minute while those fed with the rigid feeder averaged an increase of 34 beats per minute.
One of the reasons that tube-feeding is not carried out on some farms is that it can be stressful for the calf, and also the operator. Ursula Haywood oversaw the trial, and comments: “On several occasions with the rigid feeder, the calf was deemed too stressed for feeding to continue, by both myself and the farmer. So they didn’t receive the full 2 litres of colostrum. We stopped timing them at that point but still included them in the trial. So not only is the time spent using the rigid feeder nearly twice as long as the flexible Trusti Tuber, six calves did not receive their full quota of colostrum.”
A video showing the Trusti Tuber in action can be found at: www.dairyspares.com. The Trusti Tuber starter kit retails at £55 + VAT and includes the flexible tube, mouthpiece, 4 litre bottle, and also a conventional feeding teat for the bottle. For more information farmers can contact their local stockist or call Dairy Spares on 01948 667676.