Shoreview, Minn. [April 01, 2013] – Research continues to show there are significant benefits to calf health and growth in addition to increases in first lactation milk yield when more milk is fed to calves. But it’s not just about feeding a higher volume of milk or milk replacer, it’s also about nutritional content, says Nick Stagg, calf and heifer specialist with Purina Animal Nutrition.

Quality and quantity are not independent factors; they rely on each other to ensure that calves are receiving optimal nourishment. To put it into a real world scenario, Stagg considers three feeding options, all based on 97 percent dry matter that he works with on calf operations:

  • Operation A: One pound of a 20:20 mixed with a gallon of water, which provides approximately 10.4 percent solids fed per day.
  • Operation B: 1.5 pounds of a 22:20 mixed with a gallon of water, which provides approximately 15 percent solids fed per day.
  • Operation C: 1.25 pounds of a 26:20 mixed with 3.1 quarts of water, which provides approximately 16 percent solids fed per day.

There is a 5.6 percent difference between operation A and operation C. Calves fed on operation C, on average have greater growth performance and reach their producers’ goals sooner.

“The bottom line is that the previous standard of feeding a gallon per day of 20:20 milk replacer no longer works for today’s modern dairy operations,” says Stagg.

Keep in mind if you feed pasteurized waste milk, the solids content can fluctuate immensely on a daily basis and needs to be accounted for.


Other factors to consider

Stagg stresses not forgetting about the role that ambient temperatures play in calf nutrition, especially for calves under three weeks of age. During times of stress, calves have greater maintenance requirements.

Mixing procedures, milk temperature (when it reaches the calf) and fresh water availability are also important for calves, says Stagg. A high quality calf starter and clean, dry and well-bedded environment will also help calves reach their full potential as well.

Next time you evaluate your milk/milk replacer feeding program, take some time to consider both quality and quantity as a whole. This will help ensure that your calves are getting the nutrients they need and the balanced diet that they deserve.

Source: Purina Animal Nutrition LLC