Milk Replacer Guide
Milk replacer is a consistent quality feed designed to meet the growth and development targets of the young calf. Milk replacer should be dairy derived and contain a high dairy content. It should also replicate the role of good quality whole milk, typically offered at 12.5% milk solids (E.g. 125 g powder, into 875ml clean water to make 1 litre of milk). Feeding a calf twice-a-day at 6 litres/day would result in offering the calf 750 g of powder/day.
When mixing, adhere to the milk replacer guidelines detailed below using fresh clean, warm water and sterile mixing and feeding utensils. The optimal drinking temperature of the calf milk replacer is 39°C. To prepare the milk, dissolve the powder in two-thirds of the amount of water at 55-60°C and add the remaining water at room temperature until the optimum drinking temperature is reached.
Calf Management Practices
When feeding milk replacer, it is critical to pay attention to the following calf management practices:
Feed Ingredients: Use high quality ingredients which are palatable and of suitable texture and particle size to stimulate rumen function.
Concentrates: Introduce starter concentrates/ration from day 3 onwards. Target 1kg/head/day pre-weaning with calves ready to be weaned when they eat >1.5 kg of concentrate per day. Weaning calves on a weight basis, compared to an age basis, will result in a more uniform batch.
Adequate Water and Roughage: Ad lib fresh water should be available to the calf from 3 days of age. Insufficient water slows rumen development and reduces feed conversion rates. A clean source of long roughage/fibre (e.g. straw) should also be available at all times to promote dry matter intakes This forage should be offered above ground level in racks/mangers.
Equipment: Clean all materials that come into contact with the milk. All feed equipment must be clean to avoid unnecessary cross-contamination of unwanted pathogens.
Calf Housing: Facilities ideally should be clean, dry, draught-free, with good ventilation. A new-born calf will spend over 80% of their time lying down, therefore it is imperative to provide a deep, warm, dry bed always. Calves should spend minimal time periods in the calving-pen to avoid picking up infection or disease. To avoid carrying disease into the calf shed over the peak calving months, set-up a wash point at the entrance to the calf shed for staff, vets, etc.
Stress: Good management and environmental conditions will help avoid unnecessary stress. Avoid sudden changes to feed and group calves to size, ensuring all have adequate feeding space.
Observe: Early detection of sick calves and isolation to avoid spreading bacterial infections is also of high importance. Regularly check the colour and solidity of the calves’ dung.
Vitalac Milk Replacer Feeding Guidelines
Our feeding schedule is a good guideline, but it is important to note that some calves might need special attention. The amount of milk should be adjusted to the needs of the calf. Below we discuss our feeding guidelines when it comes to Vitalac Milk Replacer Bucket Feeding and Automatic Feeding.
TABLE: Vitalac Milk Replacer Bucket Feeding (Twice a day feeding)
TABLE: Vitalac Milk Replacer Automatic Feeding (Twice-a-day feeding)
Agritech recommend twice-a-day feeding. Our Vitalac Blue Milk Replacer can be used for twice-a-day feeding, however it is also ideally suited for once-a-day feeding, due to the higher level of concentrates. Please see our guidelines below when feeding Vitalac Blue in a once-a-day system.
TABLE: Vitalac Blue Milk Replacer Bucket Feeding (Once-a-day feeding)
Recommended further reading
Calf Rearing Guide: Practical and easy to use. S.J. Charlton. Published by Context.