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Tips on feeding calf milk replacer

Tips on feeding calf milk replacer

Tips on feeding calf milk replacer

For tips on choosing the right calf milk replacer (CMR), we spoke to Laura Pattie, PGG Wrightson Technical Expert – Animal Production.

  • Laura says when researching a suitable CMR for your farming system, most calf rearers look for quality milk proteins, fat as it is an important energy source, added minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and trace minerals and vitamins along with other beneficial additives such as organic acids and probiotics. As coccidiosis is widely found across New Zealand, a CMR that has an added coccidiostat is beneficial.
  • To get a better understanding of the difference between a premium CMR and others available, Laura says premium CMR’s generally have higher levels of protein and fat, along with the inclusion of a higher quality whole milk powder which forms a strong curd. Premium CMR’s will also feature a more comprehensive mineral and vitamin profile.
  • If you’re storing your CMR remember to keep it in a cool, dry location that is protected from heat, sunlight and rodents.
  • When you’re making up the CMR Laura recommends writing out clear procedures so each feed is correctly mixed and delivered in a consistent manner.
  • Laura suggests feeding calves 1.5 to 2% of their birth weight in CMR powder daily. For example, for a 40 kg calf this would equal 600 to 800 g of CMR daily. In practice, if CMR is mixed at 150 g per L, a total of 4 L, split over two feeds, would equal 600 g of CMR solids per day.
  • The volume of milk per feed is important. When calves are young they can only handle small volumes of milk, approximately 2 L on average, depending on the size of the calf. If larger volumes of milk are to be fed, make changes gradually over a few days. If the volume of milk is too much, it may flow into the rumen and cause ruminal drinking which can lead to the calves becoming ill.
  • Compartment feeders, Laura recommends, are good for young calves to get the volume they require without over feeding. Try McKee Plastics Gravity Calf Feeder 6 Teat.
  • Laura says if you wish to change CMR during the milk feeding, do it gradually over four to five days to prevent nutritional scours and digestive upset. The same applies if calves are going from whole milk to CMR.  
  • As the abomasum stomach in young calves is small, it cannot receive great volumes of milk at one time. Therefore, Laura recommends feeding calves less than two weeks old twice a day. This also allows the calves to be closely monitored for signs of illness. Take advantage of this as the sooner an issue is picked up, the better the outcome will be for the calves.
  • If wanting to move to once a day feeding, it is ideal to wait until the calves are at least two weeks of age.

To view our range of calf milk replacers, visit PGG Wrightson’s online store here.