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Stackyard News Feb 2012

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Increase Milk Replacer in Calf Diets to Fill the Energy Gap

Calf rearers are reminded to increase milk replacer feed rates for young calves to avoid growth rate checks as low temperatures are hitting the country. “With temperatures running below 5°C, young calves will need more energy to maintain body temperature and this will be at the expense of growth unless quantities of milk replacer are increased to compensate,” says Provimi ruminant product manager Philip Ingram.


calf rearing

“Quantities of milk replacer should be increased during these cold periods in order to maintain target growth rates.” Dr Ingram suggests, as a quick guide, that for each 5°C drop in temperature, when ambient temperature falls below 15°C, an extra 100g of milk powder a day is required.

Traditionally, calf milk replacers tend to be fed on a restricted basis containing between 18% and 20% fat and 22% to 24% crude protein, contributing around 2.5MJ of ME per litre of milk fed. A milk replacer of this specification and fed at 500grammes a day will only support growth rates of around 400 grams per head per day depending on environmental conditions. “More recent trial work has shown us that these feeding rates are not exploiting the young calf’s potential and they will almost certainly underperform in colder temperatures,” adds Dr Ingram.

Calves should be able to consume more than 750g of milk powder within the first weeks of life to support growth rates of at least 600g. Feeding more milk replacer with a higher crude protein content will improve body weight gain and also lean gain at the expense of fat.

Trial work carried out by Provimi shows that to maintain a growth rate of 600g per day, three week old Holstein calves require around 17MJ of ME at temperatures of 19°C. This would increase to 19MJ a day if environmental temperatures drop to below 10°C. In this case additional energy is required, through feeing more milk powder, in order to maintain the desired growth rates.

“It is also important to offer calves solid feed from the first or second week of life to try and fill this energy gap,” adds Dr Ingram. “However, the quantity of dry feed intake is generally still low in the second week of life in winter conditions and is typically less than 100g a day. It is therefore important that the energy requirements are met at this time of year through increased high quality milk replacer.”

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