Milk or milk replacer is the major nutrient source for calves during the first three weeks after birth. Because the calf’s digestive system is not yet mature enough to digest grain efficiently, growth and maintenance needs must be satisfied by milk intake.
Traditional milk-feeding programs for heifer calves were designed to provide nutrients for limited body growth along with maintenance. Because of the cost and labor involved, the main goal of the pre-weaning period has been to facilitate transition of calves from milk to dry feed (calf starter). Traditional milk replacers contained 20% crude protein and 20% fat, and yielded body weight gains of less than 1.0 lb/day. Research in Israel in the 1990’s demonstrated that calves consuming whole milk gained weight faster, and produced more milk as cows. This knowledge stimulated the development of new milk replacers that would promote growth similar to that possible with whole milk feeding.
Intensified feeding of calves involves feeding approximately twice as much milk replacer powder (2 to 2.5 lb/day) as traditional feeding programs (1 to 1.25 lb/day).
An article in the January 2012 Michigan Dairy Review examines the potential advantages and pitfalls of intensified feeding programs, as well as costs and returns from doing so.
Click here to read the article.
Source: January 2012 Michigan Dairy Review