NRC Calculator App Answers the “What Ifs” of Calf Nutrition

Calves in hutches. ( Taylor Leach )

The 2001 Dairy NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle software has been embraced as a valuable source of information by calf nutritionists and raisers since its inception. Now that system is more accessible and easier to use, thanks to a collaborative industry effort that has transferred the Dairy NRC Calf data to a user-friendly smartphone app.

The NRC Calculator App was developed jointly by Animix LLC and Milk Products, LLC. Dr. Dave Cook, PhD., Technical Service Manager for Milk Products, said the app takes a great tool and makes it better. “The beauty of the NRC model is that it allows calf raisers and nutritionists to predict the impact of various dietary formulations on calf performance,” said Cook. “It estimates energy and protein available for gain based on a set of dietary and environmental input factors. Now, with the NRC Calculator App, we can quickly evaluate these variables and predicted outcomes on the go, at virtually any location.” 

The NRC Calculator estimates energy and protein available for gain of the dairy calf, based on the composition and dry matter intake of whole milk and/or milk replacer fed. The results are calculated considering the physiological impacts of animal inputs such as ambient temperature and body weight. The ration inputs include composition and dry matter intake of liquid feed and starter grains.

Milk replacer, whole milk, or combined feeding strategies can be analyzed. Two rations also can be compared side-by-side on one convenient screen.

The calculator reports energy allowable ADG and protein allowable ADG for each diet. It creates an easy assessment of which nutrient – fat or protein – is limiting calf performance.

In practice, Cook said the app is a convenient and efficient tool to answer the “what ifs” of calf dietary nutrition decisions. For example:

  • What if we increase feeding rates?”
  •  “What if I want to compare two milk replacer formulations to choose the one that will produce the highest ADG?”
  • “What if I want to switch from milk replacer to whole milk? 
  • “What if I want to utilize both milk replacer and whole milk?”
  • “What if the ambient temperature drops 20 degrees?”
  • What would be the impact of a change in milk replacer program that results in increased starter grain intake?
  • What is the estimated cost of gain for my current program? 

The app can be customized to accommodate Metric or Imperial measurements, and is operable in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese and Japanese. It is available for free download at Google Play for Android devices and the Apple App Store for Apple products. 

You can learn more about the NRC Calculator App on this YouTube video, and a web-based version for desktop users also is available.