Friday, 19 June 2020

Raising calves is more than what milk you use


There are many ways that can be used to raise calves to meet their production targets. It is so much more than the liquid diet chosen.

Rules of calf rearing

  1. Giving the right volume of quality colostrum at the right time
  2. Selecting healthy calves
  3. Providing a good environment (shelter, warmth)
  4. Hygiene

Comparing liquid diets is missing the point when science shows us that it’s about the whole package. The provisions of adequate nutrients from liquid and solid feeds (maintaining an average daily weight gain above 0.5 kg/d) can enhance the first lactation performance of heifers when combined with proper postweaning practices.

The evidence is that the animal’s intake of non-liquid feed at weaning is a better predictor of future productivity than its intake of milk or milk replacer. So, stimulating non-liquid feed is beneficial, and this is what a good quality whey-based milk replacer does.

Why do we get told that whey-based milk replacers are of poor quality compared to milk?

The myth that whey milk is to be avoided has been generated from the suppliers of the original non-clotting milk replacers, which was inferior in terms of growth rates and diarrhoea.

The whey based CMR products out of Europe are predominantly high quality, with added vitamins, minerals and pre and pro biotics. Europe mainly feeds whey based CMR and has outstanding results on its well managed calf rearing units. This is not to say that good whey-based feeds are better than milk, but they are certainly not inherently worse.

Why not let mother nature do her thing and let the cow provide the nutrients to her calf?

This is ideal, however in the dairy sector we don’t see mother nature’s rules followed. Some people believe that curd formation allows for the slow release of nutrients into the blood, which is necessary because of the poor development of the small intestine in the first four weeks.  However, there is evidence to show that some calves don’t form curd, despite ingestion of a clotting milk replacer, with no significant impact on the appearance, appetite and vigour of pre-ruminant calves. Also, with no significant impact on their blood parameters, including serum triglyceride, blood urea nitrogen and glucose concentrations.


The gross simplification that lack of clotting is the cause of poor performance, doesn’t take into account the science.