Wednesday, June 25, 2014

High Milk Feeding = No Starter Intake?

Just nothing like hard data. In a study involving 62 Holstein bull calves both milk and calf starter intake were monitored daily. [Miller-Cushon and others, "The Effect of Palatability of Protein Source on Dietary Selection in Dairy Calves. Journal of Dairy Science 97:4444-4454 July 2014]

I reviewed the data presented in the article looking especially at levels of calf starter intake by week of age. Calves were all fed 6.3 quarts of milk replacer (25:19 analysis) daily containing 1.65 pounds (750g) of powder (a fairly intensive milk replacer feeding program). 

Daily starter intake by week averaged:
Week 4   1 pound
Week 5   1.3 pounds
Week 6   1.6 pounds
Week 7   2.3 pounds
Week 8   2.9 pounds

Thus, in spite of the 1 2/3 pounds of milk replacer daily through eight weeks the calf stater consumption increased week-by-week.

The point here is that by 4 weeks the calves were eating one pound of starter (about one quart for the starter that I fed my calves). They had been eating some concentrate regularly for about three weeks by the time they were 35 days old. This is enough to promote good growth of the inner lining of the rumen.

In this study milk replacer feeding continued right through the eight-week study period. In a dairy farm setting we are more likely to see the milk replacer feeding rate drop around 35 to 42 days. I eliminated the PM milk replacer feeding for my calves in preparation for weaning around 45 to 49 days of age (I was feeding 2.2 pounds of powder daily). When the milk replacer volume was cut in half the starter intake jumped up over seven days from about 1 - 1.5 pounds daily to 3.5 - 4.0 pounds a day.

Yes, higher rates of milk or milk replacer feeding do suppress the amount of calf starter consumed compared to minimal milk feeding rates (e.g., 4 quarts a day, 1 pound of m.r. powder daily). But, if careful records are kept we find that calves do eat small amounts beginning around 14 to 21 days of age. This is especially true when clean fresh water is offered daily.

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