Video: How to mix milk replacer and the correct rate to feed

In the following article/video of the ‘Calf Health and Management Series’, Volac’s Rebecca O’Sullivan brings us through a step-by-step guide to mixing milk replacer correctly and consistently, while also noting how much to feed.

“We recommend feeding 6L of milk replacer/day – that’s 750g of powder,” Rebecca begins. “So, at that rate, you are feeding 12.5% solids – which is the same as whole milk.”

However, as calves can be of varying ages coming in, Rebecca explains that these should be allowed to get used to the feeding system, before being pushed onto 6L/day.

“Starting calves on 4L – and building them up to 6L – over three-to-four days is recommended, just to make sure there are no issues with scour, and that they are settling in without any stress,” she explained.

Instructions for feeding milk replacer to calves are generally provided on the bag; for example, to make up 1L of milk replacer, mix 125g of powder and 875ml of water.

“That’s making 1L and it’s 6L/day on a twice-a-day (TAD) feeding system, so 3L in the morning and 3L in the evening.”

Rebecca highlighted that there are a number of factors that farmers must consider when mixing and feeding milk replacer, including: product batch; feeding temperature; and feeding consistency.

“Farmers need to be consistent in what they do; it’s about being consistent morning and evening – feeding at similar times and at the same rate,” she added.

When environmental temperature falls, calf growth rates plummet, simply because they require so much more energy just to keep warm and there is, therefore, less available energy for growth.

During periods of extreme cold weather, it is vital to feed calves enough milk to provide them with the required extra energy. The higher nutrient supply will help maintain body temperature, preserve growth rates and make calves less susceptible to disease.

For a calf older than three weeks-of-age, feed an extra 100g milk of powder / day for each 10º drop in ambient temperature below 10°. For example, if the outside temperature is 0°, feed calves an extra 100g/day.

“You need to be hitting 0.7-0.8kg/day to get those animals on target, and the best time for this is in the first two months of life,” she said, while adding: “Every system works, and has been proven to work, as long as you are consistent in what you do.”

Finally, Rebecca said that calf starter – which is fresh, clean and palatable – should be introduced from day three.

“You want high-flaked material such as flaked maize and something with molasses to get calves introduced to it. Once they are eating higher quantities of starter, they can be introduced to calf pencils with a crude protein content of 18%.”