There have been nutritional concerns about feeding young dairy calves milk replacers with milk solids of 0.9 kilograms (1.98) of dry matter or more, due to slumps in average daily gain at weaning and low starter intakes. Additionally, programs feeding more than 0.6 kilograms (1.32 pounds) of dry matter have not been thoroughly tested for success at different weaning ages. New research by Nurture Research, a part of Provimi North America (formerly Akey Nutrition and Research), looked at the effect of milk replacer programs on digestion of nutrients in dairy calves.
In this study, four milk replacer programs were compared. Calves were fed different milk replacers, varying amounts of the milk replacers and then weaned at six or seven weeks of age. Milk replacers used in the study ranged from a conventional 20 percent protein milk replacer fed at 1 pound of powder per calf daily to a 28 percent protein milk replacer fed at 2.5 pounds of powder per calf daily.
Feeding more than 1.5 pounds of powder daily resulted in both reduced intake and reduced digestion of starter. Additionally, serum concentrations of different metabolites indicated poor development of digestive system in calves fed more than 1.5 pounds of milk replacer powder. Calves fed 1 pound daily of the conventional 20 percent protein milk replacer gained the least body weight through 12 weeks of age compared to all other treatments. Calves fed 2.5 pounds of milk replacer and weaned at seven weeks of age gained the most body weight through eight weeks of age but not through 12 weeks of age because of reduced intake and digestion of starter. Calves fed 1.5 pounds of a 26 percent crude protein milk replacer and weaned at either four or six weeks of age gained the most body weight through 12 weeks age. Over-feeding milk replacer reduced starter intake and digestion of starter and slowed the growth rates of calves during the time of weaning and post-weaning.
Read the abstract published in the March Journal of Dairy Science.