If you’re a farmer or a rancher, you know how important it is to give your calves the right amount of milk powder.
But with so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard to know exactly how much to feed them.
In this article, we’ll break down the science behind calf nutrition and give you some practical tips for feeding your calves the right way.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this guide will help you ensure that your calves get the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong.
So let’s dive in and learn how much milk powder a calf really needs!
How Much Milk Powder Does A Calf Need?
The amount of milk powder a calf needs depends on its body weight and age. As a general rule, a calf should be fed approximately 10% of its body weight in milk powder each day. For example, if a calf weighs 100 pounds, it should be fed around 10 pounds of milk powder per day.
It’s important to note that feeding less than this amount can result in poor growth due to a lack of needed nutrients. On the other hand, overfeeding or sudden changes in the amount of milk can cause digestive upsets and scouring.
When it comes to milk replacer, the amount fed at each meal depends on the number of times a day you feed. A full potential milk diet should contain 2.5 pounds of milk solids in 8-12 quarts of milk or calf milk replacer per day. This diet can be delivered 2x/day, 3x/day or with an automatic calf feeder. Stick to equally spaced, established feeding times.
It’s also important to consult the instructions of the milk replacer you use, as different milk replacers may contain variable quantities of crude protein and fat. Always double-check to ensure your calves get the calories and nutrients they need!
The Importance Of Proper Nutrition For Calves
Proper nutrition is essential for the growth and development of healthy calves. The daily feeding rate for milk or milk replacer should be based on factors such as desired weight gain, calf weight, calf health, and climatic conditions. Calves should be fed 15-20% or more of their birth weight in milk or milk replacer (mixed at 12-15% DM) daily. Large breed calves should receive 4 quarts of undiluted colostrum within one hour of birth, or 2 quarts within an hour and an additional 2 quarts within 6 to 8 hours. Small breed calves can be fed 3 quarts within the first hour.
Feeding colostrum is crucial for the transfer of immunity from cow to calf, and it is important to understand that feeding a large volume of colostrum cannot overcome low antibody concentration or high bacterial contamination. Volume is not the only factor determining the successful transfer of immunity from cow to calf.
The amount of milk replacer required will vary depending on the calf’s size and growth rate as well as the energy and protein content of the milk replacer. Calves must consume more of a less nutrient-dense milk replacer to achieve results similar to those achieved with a higher density replacer. This may or may not be more economical in the long run.
Dehydration is what kills calves, and correcting with supplemental electrolytes is the most crucial part of any treatment protocol. However, DO NOT prevent scouring calves from nursing. Calves need the nutritional value of the milk to help fight off the disease. In general, feed calves a minimum of 8 quarts (2 gallons) per day of either whole milk or high-quality milk replacer (26:20).
To optimize production later, calves should double their birth weight by weaning. A good calf weaning weight should be around 50% of its mother’s body weight or between 500 and 700 pounds. To prevent calf scours, use a system-wide approach that includes cow health, colostrum management, calf nutrition, cleaning and sanitizing, and vaccination.
Understanding The Nutritional Needs Of Calves
Calves have specific nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to grow and thrive. Feeding and management programs typically advocate feeding calves 15-20% or more of their birth weight in milk or milk replacer daily. For example, a Holstein calf would receive 0.9-1.1 kg (2-2.5 lb) per day of dry matter from milk or milk replacer.
Large breed calves should receive 4 quarts of undiluted colostrum within one hour of birth, or 2 quarts within an hour and an additional 2 quarts within 6 to 8 hours. Small breed calves can be fed 3 quarts within the first hour. Since many calves will not or cannot drink this large amount at one time, an esophageal feeder may be used to feed all or part of the colostrum.
It is important to note that nursing is an unreliable method for feeding colostrum, and only 25 percent of calves will get adequate colostrum within the first hour after birth. Quality, quantity, and timing all may be compromised by nursing. The level of IgG necessary to provide adequate protection to the calf will vary depending on the pathogen load in colostrum and the environment, stress, housing, and feeding practices.
Whole milk can also be used to feed baby calves. Calves should be fed daily approximately 10% of their body weight (1 quart of milk weighs 2 pounds). For example, a Holstein calf weighing 90 pounds at birth would be fed 4.5 quarts (9 pints) of milk daily or 2.25 quarts per feeding when fed twice daily.
Compared to older cattle, calves have greater surface area per unit of body weight, resulting in a lower limit to their thermoneutral zone. Calves between birth and 3 weeks of age have a lower thermoneutral zone limit of 20oC, and calves >3 weeks of age have a lower thermoneutral zone limit of 10oC. Maintenance energy requirement increases as temperatures fall below these values.
To compensate for these increased energy requirements, milk replacers with fat concentrations ≥15% should be fed in cold weather. Furthermore, the amount of dry powder should be increased by 50 g/day for each incremental decline of 5oC below the thermoneutral zone.
Factors Affecting The Amount Of Milk Powder A Calf Needs
Several factors can affect the amount of milk powder a calf needs, including its size, growth rate, and energy and protein content of the milk replacer.
Firstly, the size of the calf plays a crucial role in determining its milk powder requirements. A larger calf will require more milk powder than a smaller one to meet its nutritional needs. Additionally, the growth rate of the calf must also be considered. Calves should double their birth weight by weaning to optimize production later on, so their milk powder intake should be adjusted accordingly.
Secondly, the energy and protein content of the milk replacer can also impact how much milk powder a calf needs. Calves must consume more of a less nutrient-dense milk replacer to achieve results similar to those achieved with a higher density replacer. However, this may or may not be more economical in the long run.
Lastly, it’s important to note that the amount of milk powder fed at each meal depends on how many times a day you feed. Therefore, it’s essential to establish equally spaced feeding times and consult the instructions of your milk replacer to ensure your calves receive adequate nutrition. By considering these factors, you can ensure that your calves receive the right amount of milk powder for optimal growth and development.
How To Determine The Right Amount Of Milk Powder For Your Calves
To determine the right amount of milk powder for your calves, you need to consider their body weight, target growth rate, and the fat and protein content of the milk replacer itself. The dairy cattle NRC (2001) has a set of equations that can be used to estimate a calf’s daily energy and protein requirement.
As a general rule, a calf should be fed approximately 10% of its body weight in milk powder each day. For example, if a calf weighs 100 pounds, it should be fed around 10 pounds of milk powder per day. However, this amount may need to be adjusted based on the calf’s individual needs.
Feeding 5 quarts of a 20:20 milk replacer (at 12.5% solids) is simply insufficient to achieve a growth rate that would enable the average calf to double her birth weight by 8 weeks of age. Feeding at this rate will likely limit growth to about 0.7 pounds per day, especially before measurable amounts of starter grain are consumed.
Increasing the feeding rate or nutrient density of a milk replacer is a significant economic investment, so it is important to weigh the cost vs. potential return. Benefits from increasing the amount of nutrition consumed from milk replacer could include an earlier age at weaning, reduced calf-hood illness, or an increase in first lactation milk production.
Tips For Feeding Milk Powder To Calves
Feeding milk powder to calves can be a tricky process, but with the right techniques, it can be done successfully. Here are some tips to help you feed milk powder to your calves:
1. Batch mixing is recommended when mixing milk powder into water. Fill the mixing container with half of the total volume of water needed, then pour the powder on top of the water. Mix while adding the remaining water to reach the total volume of solution to feed all calves. Inspect carefully to assure that all calf milk powder is thoroughly mixed and there are no lumps.
2. To assure that calves don’t get short-changed nutritionally when feeding 8 ounces, mix powder and water to a final volume of 2 quarts. When feeding 10 oz of powder, add the powder to 2 quarts of water for 13% solids.
3. Calves should receive milk replacer mixed at no less than 125g in 875 ml water to make 1 Litre of mixed milk, depending on the type of milk powder protein and fat levels mixing rates can be increased up to 150g – 175g (always seek advice from your calf rearing specialist / follow the instructions on the bag).
4. Milk should be fed at the same temperature every day, and we recommend feeding our products at body temperature of 38 °C. Always feed the youngest calves first which ensures their milk is the right temperature.
5. When it comes to cold weather feeding, newborn calves can experience cold stress at temperatures below 50 degrees F. Options for providing more nutrients to calves during cold stress include feeding up to 50% more milk replacer solution per calf per feeding (feed 3 quarts versus 2 quarts per feeding), adding a third 2 quart feeding during the day, or adding Calf-Cal high energy supplement to the existing milk replacer.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your calves receive the proper amount of nutrients they need from their milk powder diet.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Feeding Milk Powder To Calves
Feeding milk powder to calves can be tricky, and there are several common mistakes that should be avoided to ensure the health and growth of your calves.
First and foremost, it’s important to weigh the milk powder rather than using cups or scoops. Weighing the powder ensures accuracy and consistency in feeding, which is crucial for the health of your calves. Use a calibrated scale to weigh the powder and ensure you are feeding the correct amount.
Another common mistake is mixing the milk replacer too strong or too weak. Mixing too strong can lead to scours, while mixing too weak will not provide the necessary nutrients for proper growth and development. Use a scale to measure the powder and a volumetric measuring device for the water, as the plastic cups that come with the milk replacer may not be consistent in measuring.
It’s also important to feed high-quality milk replacer containing 28% protein, starting with 1 lb of milk solids (1 gallon) in the first week and gradually increasing to 2 lbs/day (2 gallons of milk) in the first 4-5 weeks of age. Gradually decrease the amount offered after the 5th week to avoid weaning stress. Calves should be weaned when grain intake is approximately 3 lbs/day, which typically occurs at 7-8 weeks of age.
Another mistake to avoid is feeding calves milk replacer with a solids content greater than 13.5%. This can be problematic for calves and increases the risk for scours and poor digestion. Stick to an ideal solids content of around 12.5% for reconstituted milk replacer.
Lastly, consistency in feeding is crucial for calf health and growth. Feed at consistent times, quantities, and temperatures (between 101°-105°F). Using a thermometer is the only effective way to guarantee proper feeding temperature. Remember, calves thrive on consistency!