UK dairy farmers are becoming more discerning about the nutrition they buy for their calves and starting to question the origin of milk replacer ingredients.

According to the 2021 Herd Futures survey, 47% of dairy units now firmly disagree with the view that when buying calf milk replacers all you need to know is the price per tonne and nutrient declaration on the bag label.

“It’s clear that UK dairy farmers want more information about what they are feeding to their calves and business sustainability issues are becoming important,” said Volac’s Samantha Sampson, speaking to visitors attending UK Dairy Day.

The survey findings also show farmers are keen to ‘buy British’ when it comes to investing in high quality young animal nutrition for the next generation of milking cows.

“For example, the Herd Futures survey found more than 84% of UK dairy farmers agreeing with the statement: feeding a calf milk replacer product made in Britain from milk produced on British farms is important for future farm business sustainability,” she added.

Sustainable sourcing of ingredients

Sampson said that sustainable sourcing of ingredients for milk powder formulations is moving to the heart of Volac raw material buying policy.

Manufacturers now have to consider both the usefulness of any given ingredient for meeting the nutrition requirements of the calf efficiently – and also the environmental and social impact of producing it.

“One approach to improve sustainability is to maximise the quality and use of proven home-grown ingredients."

She explained that about 10% of the milk produced by the national herd is taken up by cheese manufacturers.

“Volac then buys back 1.1 billion litres a year of the whey co-product produced when cheese is made from British farmers’ milk, turning it into the valuable concentrated milk protein raw material Imunopro that is used in the company’s calf milk formulas."