Calf Milk Replacer
Six Reasons Why It Is Better to Use Calf Milk Replacer
Calf milk replacers have advantages over fresh milk. In this article you will learn the benefits of using milk powder. Since calf milk replacers are made there have been two major goals in formulating them. One, to reduce the cost of feeding calves, and two, to find ingredients that contain available, digestible proteins.
1) Cheaper than fresh milk.
One of the reasons that calf milk replacers exist is the fact that farmers need a cheap alternative for fresh milk. Calf milk replacers are made of vegetable protein and fat. These ingredients are a lot cheaper than animal based protein and fat. The milk from the cows, needed for the calves can then be sold to the milk factory.
The challenges are; one, to find affordable ingredients, and two, to meet the feed requirements such as a good digestibility and growth rate for the calves. Some of the most used are soy and wheat based products.
2) Better attuned to the needs of the calf.
A dairy calf has other feed requirements than a veal calf. A dairy calf needs to develop its rumen as soon as possible. It needs a milk powder that is designed for only the first two months of its live. A dairy calf doesn’t need to grow as fast as a veal calf. Therefore a calf milk replacer designed for dairy calves is less rich in fat content.
As quickly as possible, the calf receives forages and concentrates in order for the rumen to be able to develop. If the calf consumes enough forages and concentrates it is possible to wean the calf.
A veal calf on the other hand remains on a milk replacer and needs to grow fast into a healthy calf with a lot of pale meat on its body. To be able to grow fast it needs a more fat based calf milk replacer for the necessary growth rate.
3) Ability to adapt the composition of the milk replacer to the developing calf.
Depending on the age of the calf, the feed demands will change. At first the calf will start with”starter” milk. This milk is rich in protein, about 20%, and a bit lower in fat, like 15-20%. Because dairy calves are usually weaned at two months, they remain on this milk until weaning.
Veal calves remain on a calf milk replacer and as they grow older their feed needs are changing as well. A feed strategy that is used many times in the veal industry is, when the calves grow older, “finisher” milk is slowly replacing a percentage of the starter milk. This finisher milk powder has lower levels of protein and higher levels of fat.
4) Constant quality.
When feeding calves fresh milk, the fat and protein levels can vary. It just depends on from which cows they receive milk. Not to mention the quality of the milk, especially if you want to feed waste milk that contains antibiotics or has a high cell count. Calf milk replacer on the other hand is always constant in fat and protein levels.
If prepared the right way (with the right temperature and mixing time), the quality is always the same. And if one thing is important for a young calf, it is constant quality.
5) Longer storage.
Calf milk replacer is delivered as milk powder and therefore the storage time can last up to six months. The things you have to take into account are that you store it in a dry place, not directly on the floor (because of the possibility of moisture getting in the milk powder) and take care of rodents.
There is no real reason to store fresh milk because it is produced at least twice a day. Besides that, it takes a lot of cooling capacity to keep the milk fresh and it is more expensive to first cool it and later heat it up again.
6) Healthier for the calf.
To get healthier calves, some additives are used by different manufacturers such as organic acids to lower the pH level. This is because healthy bacteria perform better at lower pH and harmful bacteria are suppressed in an acidic environment.
Vitamins and minerals in the right proportions are also added to provide the calf with the building blocks to grow into a healthy calf. Some other ingredients, like Lecithin are added for better dissolving of the milk powder and soothing the intestine wall. This will help prevent calves getting diseases like scours.
Although fresh milk is a good and healthy source for young calves to grow into healthy animals, most farmers prefer to use calf milk replacers. They are cheaper, have a constant quality and can improve the health of young calves in more ways than fresh milk can. Combine these benefits with the longer storage time and less labor for the farmer and you have enough reasons to prefer calf milk replacers over fresh milk. To learn more about how to get healthy calves read my report on curing calf scours.