Calves on many farms are now old enough to transition to once-a-day (OAD) feeding, which can reduce the workload considerably on farms.

During the spring period, the feeding of calves and milking of cows are two jobs that take up a significant amount of time.

Most dairy farms now have a significant number of calves on the ground, which means that feeding may be taking a considerable amount of time.

As surplus calves are gradually sold off farm, the number of calves being fed twice a day (TAD) should reduce.

Before moving calves to OAD feeding, it is important that they are 28-days-old or older, as a calf younger than this will be unable to consume the levels of milk required.

It is also important to ensure that any calves that are being moved to OAD feeding are in good health, and are showing no signs of illness.

OAD feeding

The moving of calves from TAD to OAD feeding can reduce the workload associated with them by 36%.

Research has also shown that it can enhance early rumen development, due to increased amounts of concentrates and straw/hay consumed by the calf.

Calves that have been moved onto a OAD programme should have access to ad-lib concentrates, fresh hay and clean water.

You will need to monitor calves twice daily, so it is advised that you feed them milk in the morning and then replace their concentrates in the evening.

The time-saving aspect of OAD feeding comes from the reduced time spent mixing replacer, feeding calves and cleaning equipment.

Failing to monitor calves enough could result in sick animals going unnoticed for a extended period of time and the impact of the illness increasing.


Many calves are close at the age where disbudding is also taking place, but it is important not to disbud calves and transition them to OAD feeding close together.

This could result in calves becoming stressed and increase the length of time it takes them to recover from the disbudding – while also increasing their risk of picking up another source of infection.

The disbudding of calves should take place first, and once calves are fully recovered, you can then start the transition to OAD feeding.