If you feed less the calves gain less
Two articles published last week in the most recent issue of the Professional Animal Scientist demonstrate that if you feed less the calves gain less.
Neither of the research projects were designed to demonstrate how limited gains could be in the first 6 weeks of life. No information was included about environmental conditions - one project was done in Georgia and the other in Pennsylvania.
However, the data confirm that when you limit milk replacer feeding to roughly 22 to 25 ounces per day (free-choice water and calf starter grain) calves will gain less than 1 pound a day (range was from about 0.8 to 0.9 pounds per day) in the period between birth and 6 weeks of age.
One of the two studies did weigh the calves at 8 weeks of age. They found that when the extra 2 weeks growth were added the rate of gain came up to a little over 1.1 pounds per day.
If our goal is to have calves double their birth weight by 60 days these gains will not succeed. Go figure - even the optimistic 1.1 pounds per day times 60 days only comes to 66 pounds.
If your calf starts life at 90 pounds and gains roughly 66 pounds she ends up at 156 rather than 180 pounds.
Moral of the story? Limit-feeding calves the first five or six weeks of life does not take advantage of the fact that this is the time when one pound of feed gives you more gain than any other time in the animal's life.