If you wish to grow healthy and productive calves, consistency is key. A consistent level of milk solids in the right protein-to-fat ratio with consistent supply of fresh starter grain and water served at the same time temperature and same time makes a tremendous difference to the performance of your herd.
Importance of consistency
Total protein and fat content in the whole milk can vary from about 10% milk solids to 15% milk solids depending on the whole milk supply each day.
Delivering consistent level of nutrients is difficult without proper testing and balancing whole milk supply each day.
Total milk solids fed should not be more than 15% unless there is excellent management of fresh water supply where the calf can self regulate the concentration of high solids consumed.
The protein-to-fat ratio of whole milk fed to calves is also very important.
Whole milk typically containers protein-to-fat ratio of 0.84 or a dry matter equivalent of about 26:31.
High level of fat will suppress the calf's appetite and she becomes satiated, which may limit starter intake.
Instead, consider feeding whole milk or milk replace with protein-to-fat ratio of about 24:18.
Consider using whole milk balancer or enhancer to achieve the goal of more protein than fat, aiming for a ratio of above 1.0.
Balancer are used to improve the protein-to-fat ratio and provide added vitamins and trace minerals that may be deficient in whole milk.
When amount of milk solids fed varies, this will affect the starter grain.
If you feed 1kg of milk solids one day and 0.5kg another day, the calf will feel hungry and eat more starter grain on low milk solids day, resulting in slug feeding.
On the days where milk solid is high, there may be little to no starter intake, causing a gap of nutrients needed to grow the rumen microbes and rumen structure.
Besides feeding consistent and balanced milk ration, here are some ways to encourage grain intake:
Provide access to starter grain beginning at 3 - 5 days old.
Offer starter in a shallow bucket.
Ensure starter grain is fresh and dry.
Delivery fresh palatable starter that is free from fine particles.
Encourage consumption with hand feeding, or use nipple devices that provide easy access to starter through stimulated sucking.
Make sure there are ample of clean and fresh water available at all times.
Aiming for consistency
In the olden days, farmers will use imprecise method such as throwing a handful of milk replacer into whole milk and calling it good.
Producers need to make sure cows'diet are carefully formulated and made with high quality ingredients.
Careful calculations should also be made when feeding calves.
Consistency will ensure healthy and high performance calves.