Calf nutrition & accelerated feeding - FAQ and misconceptions
Will my calves scour if I feed more milk?
If you feed too much milk in one feed, it may overload the abomasum and cause a nutritional scour. If you feed small amounts but more often, this is perfect – like mum does, more natural, and the calf takes more milk over 24 hours and converts it efficiently at the right stage of its life. This improves life-long performance, not just to 12 weeks. Their muck is likely to be looser on high milk levels, but looser muck is not a scour, the calf’s temperature is a clue. Calves have been under-fed for years! 2L twice a day is close to maintenance level!
Will it cost me more money to feed a calf more milk?
Yes, but only in the short term. They grow more quickly, reaching target weight earlier. This is the most efficient time to grow the frame. A well-fed calf is a healthy calf and is more able to fight disease which saves time and money on vet’s bills. Don’t forget the bigger picture here - getting this stage right also leads to heifers reaching bulling weight sooner than limit fed heifers, and the really big bonus is more milk solids in their first and subsequent lactations which far outweighs your initial investment in the milk powder! Spending large amounts of money on high genetic merit semen is also wasted if you then under feed your calves. Who wouldn’t want calves to express their true genetic potential when you have spent that money? The old saying ‘90% of the breeding goes in at the mouth’ is still valid.
If I feed ad-lib milk, will my calves just keep drinking?
No. – Just try it! They will restrict themselves on ad-lib, taking feeds little and often. Why would they gorge if milk is there all the time? Ad lib calves never feel desperately hungry, so they do not panic and drink too much. Feeding 2L twice a day leaves calves still feeling hungry and when the feeder is removed, they will suck ears and navels to try and satisfy their appetite. This habit can lead to navel sucking in limit fed calves.
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