Nutrition plays such a key role in raising quality dairy calves and heifers that it is covered in all three of the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association's Gold Standards, including the new Gold Standards III, which concentrates on animal welfare. While the intricacies of calf and heifer nutrition have been the focus of countless research studies, the subject is, first and foremost, a welfare issue. 

In the Gold Standards III, nutrition for preweaned calves covers feeding procedures, water delivery, grain feeding and weaning guidelines.

Here are some nutrition basics from Gold Standards III that will aid in your calves' and heifers' animal well-being, growth and immune system development; please refer to all of DCHA's Gold Standards for more specific recommendations and guidelines.

  • Working with a consulting nutritionist is recommended.
  • Nutritional outcomes should meet the standards for mortality, morbidity and growth described in Gold Standards I and Gold Standards II.
  • Milk/milk replacer fed to pre-weaned calves should contain adequate nutrition to promote health and growth and be fed consistently.
  • Clean, ample, accessible water supplies should be provided to all animals starting at 1 week of age.
  • Consistently offer palatable, clean calf starter beginning at 1 week of age.
  • Wean calves when they are consuming enough starter grain - and have adequate rumen development to digest it - to meet size and growth goals.
  • Space procedures around weaning time to minimize stress.
  • Feed post-weaned heifers to gain at least 1.7-2.0 pounds per day.
  • Keep feed fresh and deliver it consistently to keep satiety levels steady.  

For additional nutrition information and more calf-raising tips, read archived versions of DCHA's Tip of the Week.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association