Should I mix my own calf starter on farm?

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During challenging economic times many dairy producers seek ways to reduce cost. Very often this cost cutting affects the calf and heifer replacement program.

When producers look to reduce costs in this area, one of the most common questions asked is: What if I mix my own calf starter or grower on-farm? The nutrients are the same.

Christy Stanley, Land O’Lakes Purina Feed calf and heifer specialist, suggests producers study the following before considering mixing their own calf starter or grower.

  • Performance demonstrates that these on-farm mixes do not typically perform as well. The physical form of a feed affects palatability. If there are too many fines or small particles the calves will go off feed. Also, calves may sort and leave behind some of the ingredients that have essential roles in supporting growth and development.
  • On-farm total mixed rations may be too bulky for young ruminants. The nutrients may be similar to the commercial product, but the intake will not be as high. Choosing to mix a feed on-farm limits the use of technology in the feed which has been shown to optimize calf intake and performance.
  • There is also a labor cost and equipment use associated with on-farm mixes. There is a potential for mixing errors associated with mixing calf starters and growers.
  • Textured or pelleted feeds manufactured from a feed mill incorporate all of the critical ingredients into a form that the calf can eat and results in a high-quality feed with a consistent nutrient profile at every feeding.

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Colin Lotzof    
Israel  |  April, 12, 2012 at 09:28 AM

Great article, I would go a lot further, and discuss the problems with accurate micro-element inclusions in the mix. Inevitably, when we attempt to save in this critical stage, we always seem to compromise on the calf's specific needs at this stage, for the sole purpose of accelerated skeletal growth, and Ruman development and in the end need to pay the price else where, probably in feed efficiency as a production animal. Great article, I would like more information about this, but go the distance, lay all the problems we may face on the table. Thank You

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