With the use of neomycin/oxytetracycline, or “Neo-Terra” (NT) now more restricted for medicating calf milk replacer, researchers are exploring other, non-antibiotic milk-replacer enhancements. Three such studies were presented at the 2017 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting. The structure and results of the studies included:

(1)   Liquid blend of egg protein, beta glucan and yeast culture compared to NT.

A total of 54 Holstein heifer calves were fed pasteurized unsaleable whole milk at 1.5 gallons daily for the initial 14 days, then 2.5 gallons/day to day 21. This diet was supplemented with one of three treatments: (a) nothing (control), (b) a liquid blend of egg protein, beta glucan and yeast culture (CalfAceTM) at 12 mL/head/day for 21 days; or (c) NT for 14 days and then no additive to day 21.

Results: 21-day average daily gain (ADG) was 1.54 lbs. and identical across all treatments. Likewise, no difference was observed for any group regarding milk consumption or starter-grain intake. Banamine® (flunixin meglumine) treatments were reduced for the liquid supplement and NT groups compared to the control group. Total treatment days were reduced for NT and supplement. Number of days with normal manure was improved for the liquid supplement compared to NT and control. Calf mortality due to intestinal health was equivalent between the supplement and NT groups, while two calved died in the control group.

(2)   Spray-dried colostrum or a blend of plasma, Mannan Oligosacchrides (MOS), essential oils, direct-fed microbials (DFM) and kelp-like compound as a replacement for NT.

All 109 Holstein heifer calves were fed an all-milk-protein, non-medicated 24:20 milk replacer at 1.50 lb./day to day 35, and then 0.75 lb./day to weaning at 42 days. Calves were supplemented with either (a) nothing (control); (b) NT at 10 mg/lb. of bodyweight for 14 days; (c) 12 grams of spray dried colostrum powder providing 6 grams IgG daily for 14 days; or (d) a blend of plasma, MOS (Bio-Mos®), microalgae meal (All-GRich, Schizochytrium limacinum – a kelp-like compound), Apex essential oil blend and multiple DFM strains including Lactobacillus and Bacillus for the first 42 days. Calf starter (18% CP) with Deccox® (decoquinate) and water were offered free choice to all groups from days 1 to 56.

Results: ADG (lbs.) day 1 – 56 was as follows: 1.36, 1.5, 1.39 and 1.45 for control, NT, bovine colostrum and additive blend, respectively. No statistical differences were observed between any group in terms of post-weaning gains, hip height, milk-replacer solids intake, starter-grain intake, daily fecal scores, scouring days, or treatment costs. The authors concluded, “Under conditions of this study, calves fed milk replacer with alternative additives for health and growth can perform similarly to calves fed NT.”

(3)   Various direct-fed microbials compared to NT.

A total of 135 Holstein heifer calves were fed a base diet of all-milk-protein, non-medicated 20:20 milk replacer at 1.25 lb./day to day 35, then .62 lb./day to weaning at 42 days. This diet was supplemented with one of five treatments: (2) nothing (control); (b) NT at 10 mg/lb. of bodyweight for 14 days; (c) 5 g of DFM containing Bacillus subtilis strain 747 (1 × 109 cfu) per feeding for 42 days; (d) 5 g of DFM containing B. subtilis strains 747+1781 (1 × 109 cfu) per feeding for 42 days; and (e) 5 g DFM as in treatment (d), plus Lactobacillus plantarum (5 × 108 cfu) per feeding for 42 days. Calf starter (18% CP as fed) and water were fed free choice for all 56 days.

Results: There were no differences in pre- or postweaning ADG, which averaged 0.93 lb./day and 1.94 lb./day respectively. Overall, 56-day ADG tended to be greater for calves fed NT and the Bacillus subtilis DFM fed in treatment (c). Starter-grain and milk-replacer intake were similar across treatments, averaging 79.15 and 45.86 lb. total intake, respectively. There were no differences in daily fecal scores, scouring days or treatment costs. The authors concluded, “Under conditions of this study, calves fed milk replacer supplemented with 5 g of DFM containing Bacillus subtilis strain 747 can perform as well as calves fed NT.”

CalfAceTM is a trademark of R&D Life Sciences.

Banamine® is a registered trademark of Schering Corporation.

Bio-Mos® is a registered trademark of Alltech.

Deccox® is a registered trademark of Zoetis.