Does increasing the level of crude protein (CP) in calf starter grain affect performance? University of Illinois researchers sought the answer in an 89-calf study that compared:

  • Conventional milk replacer (20 percent CP/20 percent fat) plus conventional starter (19.6 percent CP, dry-matter (DM) basis).
  • Enhanced milk replacer (28.5 percent CP/15 percent fat) plus conventional starter.
  • Enhanced milk replacer plus high-CP starter (25.5 percent CP, DM basis).

Calves were fed a milk-replacer diet for 42 days, with supplemental starter grain available free-choice starting on day three. Results of the study include:

  • Starter intake was greater for calves fed conventional milk replacer.
  • For calves fed enhanced milk replacer, starter intake was greater for calves fed high-protein starter.
  • During the weaning period, enhanced starter promoted greater DM intake than conventional starter.
  • Average daily gain was higher among all calves fed enhanced milk replacer versus conventional, and highest among the calves fed both enhanced milk replacer and starter.

Rates of change in withers height, body length and heart girth was greater in calves fed conventional milk replacer, but were not affected significantly by starter CP content.