More nutrients = healthier calves
Research conducted by Sandra Godden, veterinarian at the University of Minnesota, compared Holstein calves fed pasteurized waste milk to calves fed a traditional 20:20 milk replacer. All 438 calves enrolled in the study received 4 quarts of fresh colostrum within two to six hours after birth. Calves fed pasteurized waste milk received 4 quarts of milk per day, and calves fed 20:20 milk replacer received 1 pound of powder mixed with 4 quarts of water. The result: Calves fed pasteurized waste milk had fewer sick days, lower mortality rates, lower treatment cost, and higher weaning weights. (Please see chart above.)
A partial-budget analysis shows that calves fed pasteurized waste milk had an economic advantage of 69 cents per calf per day compared to those fed milk replacer, which equates to $34 per calf from birth to weaning. That economic advantage, explains Godden, comes primarily from less treatment cost.
While the volume fed all of the calves was the same, the researchers believe the higher nutrient content of the whole milk (it contains about 18 percent more energy than 20:20 milk replacer) allowed the calves to perform significantly better. And, transition milk from the second, third and fourth milkings post-parturition contains immunoglobulins and non-specific immune factors that can promote calf health.
This is not to imply that milk replacer is bad. Godden says she believes that feeding more milk replacer or a milk replacer product more closely formulated to the nutrient content of whole milk could also improve calf health.
Van Amburgh agrees. Producers who want to feed milk replacer should select a product that more closely reflects the nutrient content of whole milk, or have their nutritionist help them determine how much powder to feed to get improved calf health, he says.
Feed for growth
Every calf has the ability to double its birth weight in 56 days. It doesn’t matter what product you feed — pasteurized waste milk, a traditional milk replacer or an intensive milk replacer — what matters is the amount of nutrients delivered to the calf. It’s the total nutrient package the calf receives that makes the difference.
In order to achieve this goal, a 100-pound calf must gain about 1.35 pounds of body weight per day, explains Van Amburgh. That means the calf would need to receive 1.6 pounds of milk on a dry-matter basis, or 1.5 gallons of whole milk, per day. Six quarts of milk delivers 3.9 Mcals of net energy to the calf. That’s enough for maintenance, growth and immune function at 68 degrees F (with no environmental stress).