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What to look for in a calf meal

What to look for in a calf meal

What to look for in a calf meal

When raising calves, many factors need to be considered to achieve optimal health and growth. Feeding studies involving calves often reach similar conclusions: a high-quality feed outperforms a standard feed in any system.

Assessing how nutrition influences early rumen development can be daunting. With many rearing systems, as well as liquid and hard feeds to choose from, focus on a few major points. When selecting a hard feed, focus on the five most important aspects of a feed: pellets versus meal, protein content, starch levels, the inclusion of vitamins and minerals, and a coccidiostat.

Does it matter if calves are fed pellets or a meal? Trials completed for the Poukawa Calf Research Project in 2008¹ found that there was little effect on feed intake and live weight gain whether the feed was pelleted, hammer milled or roller milled.

Reviewing the same research¹, the calves that were fed 20% calf meal were 4.2 kg heavier at six weeks of age, with 47 percent of those calves being weaned at the time. In comparison, 21 percent of calves weaned at six weeks were fed 16% calf meal. Ultimately, the cost savings provided by using the lower protein content feed was not as great as the value of early weaning of the calf on the higher protein diet.

High starch levels in calf feed promote the establishment of a healthy rumen. Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs), butyrate and propionate are produced from the fermentation of starch and have been shown to have the greatest positive impact on the development of the finger-like papillae that line the inside of the rumen.² The high density of healthy papillae increases the surface area available for the absorption of VFAs, helps the calf maximise these valuable energy sources.

Including vitamins and minerals in calf feed supports calf health and facilitates growth. Nutrients are essential in various metabolic processes, immune function and overall well-being.

A good calf meal contains a coccidiostat. Coccidiosis is a common intestinal disease in young calves caused by a parasite called coccidia. Including a coccidiostat in feed helps protect against coccidiosis, reducing the risk of infection.

Whether a pellet or meal is chosen, aim for a feed that contains 20 percent protein, a strong balance of vitamins and minerals, is high in starch and includes a coccidiostat. Gusto 20% Calf Blend is a nutritionally balanced meal catering to the energy, protein, and mineral and vitamin requirements of growing calves. It includes New Zealand-grown grains for freshness and palatability.

Visit your local PGG Wrightson store to purchase calf meal from the Gusto range.

¹ Beef + Lamb New Zealand. Fact Sheet April 2018. Retrieved from

² Quigley, J.D. (1997). Development of the Rumen Epithelium. Retrieved from