It’s Youngstock Month: Milk Feeding Calves

Should I Recommend Whole Milk or Milk Replacer for calves?

Growth of 0.75-0.95kgday is achievable with milk or replacer

Whole milk can provide the ideal mix of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that the calf needs, as long as the cows are fed appropriately and have enough access to feed. Replacer can have all of the right ingredients added to it BUT management of it is the key:

  1. There is potential to mix incorrectly
  2. It may not have all of the minerals and vitamins required, depending on manufacturer
  3. There is potential for human or machine error in making the mixture correctly
  4. It has been shown that calves grow up to 0.48kg/day more up to weaning from whole milk, even when compared with an exact fat, protein and intake match on replacer (1)

Ultimately, the answer to this totally depends on economics: growth is improved on whole milk but 0.75-0.95kg/day growth targets can also be met on milk replacer. The question is: what is more economic at the time? Lost milk from the dairy, or replacer?

Is waste milk OK?

Waste, or dumped milk can be an attractive option to feed to calves: it often does have the right nutrients and even if acidified, can provide target growth weights to weaning. It has however, been shown that milk with known antibiotic resistance can be passed to calves fed on this milk (2).

Really, the ideal recommendation would be to not feed dumped milk, but practically, it is economically attractive and there is little evidence to show worse disease rates, growth rates or adverse effects on weaning targets (2)

Pasteurisation would be highly recommended (see my next post)

Where is the Evidence?

  1. Lee H.J., Khan M.A., Lee W.S., Yang S.H., Kim S.B., Kee K.S., Ha J.K., Choi J.K. 2009. “Influence of equalizing the gross composition of milk replacer to that of whole milk on the performance of Holstein calves.” Journal of Animal Science 87 (3): 1129-1137
  2. 1.S., Godden. 2008. “A review of issues surrounding the feeding of waste milk and pasteurization of waste milk and colostrum.” University of Minnesota: Continuing Veterinary Education. Accessed January 24, 2019.
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