Feeding higher-protein milk replacer benefited calves all the way through freshening, according to a study conducted at the University of Missouri (UM).
Calves fed the accelerated program weaned earlier, had improved health and fertility, and produced 1,000 lb more milk in their first lactation. In the two-year study on a pasture-based dairy, one group of calves were fed a 28.5:15 protein-fat accelerated milk replacer while another group was fed a traditional replacer. Both groups were fed using a mob-feeding system at MU’s Southwest Research Center near Mount Vernon.
The accelerated milk replacer provides about twice as much dry matter per calf per day as traditional replacers. “The higher level of milk feeding is counterintuitive to the goal of increased grain feeding and subsequent rumen development,” says Scott Poock, a dairy veterinarian involved with the study.
However, the study shows that calves eat more grain after weaning when the milk ration is reduced a week or two before weaning, he says. Poock also cautions that the accelerated replacer be thoroughly mixed with the right ratio of milk powder to water. Clumps of undissolved powder can cause gut issues in young calves, he says.
The benefits of feeding the accelerated milk replacer are multiple: Earlier weaning dates, better health, younger breeding ages, better conception rates and more milk in first lactation. All of this translates into more money for the producer, says Stacey Hamilton, a UM Extension dairy specialist.