New research shows that when calves on a higher plane of nutrition were fed three times a day instead of two, they had a much better chance of entering lactation than calves fed twice a day.

“When you talk about feeding (calves) three times a day, everybody thinks of going outside and having to do a midnight feeding,” says Don Sockett, veterinary microbiologist at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

Fortunately, that is not necessary. Here’s how the calf feeders involved in the research study implemented a 3X approach:

At 8 a.m., the daytime calf feeder fed the calves a 28-percent protein, 20-percent fat milk replacer. The next feeding took place at 2:30 p.m. Before he left for the day, the calf feeder washed and sanitized all the buckets. He also handled preparations for the 9 p.m. feeding, which was handled by a milker on the farm. This streamlined the evening feeding tremendously.

“All he (the evening milker) had to do was come over,” Sockett says. “Everything was pre-weighed. Everything (was) labeled, so all he had to do was get the water at the right temperature, add the milk replacer, mix it up and feed the calves.”

The milker left the buckets with the calves all night. At 6 a.m. the next morning, the daytime calf feeder arrived to wash and sanitize the used calf-feeding equipment prior to offering the 8 a.m. feeding.

The key to success, Sockett says, is getting the people who feed the calves on board.

“If there’s a will to do it, the calf feeder will figure out a way to do it,” he says.

To learn more about the research, read “Make mine a triple” in the March 2012 issue of Dairy Herd Management.