Should I Switch to 3X Milk Feeding?
My client asked this question having read a online posting. We talked about their current preweaned management. Colostrum is collected in the calving pen from dams as soon as they are up and steady on their feet. The dairy feeds 4 quarts of quality-tested colostrum in the first hour of life - 100% compliance. All calves are blood tested; a test value below 5.5 is unusual.
Calves are housed individually. At present pasteurized waste milk is fed twice a day. They are fed in pails after the first few days. The milk is fed on a "step-up" schedule with the goal of the calves consuming 8 quarts daily by ten days of age. [Not all calves achieve this level, a few are 2 weeks old before drinking this amount.] They stay at this level until they are cleaning up at least 1/2 pound of calf starter grain a day. Then they are switched to once-a-day feeding [that means going from 8 to 4 quarts of whole milk a day.]. This step-down on milk happens around 35 to 40 days.
Their plan is to feed at roughly 8-hour intervals that would fit their labor supply. They plan to feed 3 quarts each of the 3 feedings. That is, to increase from 8 to 9 quarts a day. After we talked the owner told me she would think more about this.
A month after this initial conversation I called to see what their decision was going to be. She replied, "Oh, we changed to 3X the next week after we talked with you. Calves are doing fine. We are feeding the full three quarts to even the youngest calves. A lot of them are drinking all of it by the end of the first week.The manure is a little more firm now that we are feeding less volume each time. [They fed 4 quarts 2X before and now feed 3 quarts 3X.] We didn't have health issues before and we don't now.
She said, "We have only been doing this for three weeks now. Call me back in September or October and I will have more to share with you." Well, it's time I made that call. I'll keep you posted.