Friday, October 7, 2016

Feeding the "Left-Over" Milk

Not every batch of milk is just exactly the correct volume to feed the calves this feeding. Usually we try to have just a small amount of milk left over. That can be dumped when we are getting ready to wash our transport tank.

But, sometimes the volume is clearly going to be more than we feel comfortable dumping. We know how to fix this problem. Just feed extra to the oldest calves - feed six or seven quarts rather than the prescribed four quarts.

Now, here is the question. Is this a best management practice?

Answer? NO.

What's the problem with feeding out the excess milk to the oldest calves?

1. If these calves are being weaned the extra milk is going to provide a slug of extra energy. This energy acts to suppress calf starter grain intake. This is just the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish - that is, getting these heifers to eat MORE grain so they are "rumen ready" for the transition pens.

2. If these are the calves just before we are starting to the weaning process the extra milk is going to provide a big slug of extra energy. This energy further delays these calves coming up on their consumption of calf starter grain. Again, this is not what we are trying to do with five to seven week old calves - they should be on a plateau or level feeding milk feeding program.

With my intensive-fed calves as they got past about three weeks their grain intake began to pick up slowly from day-to-day. I held their milk intake even from two to six weeks of age. Then, since I monitored grain intakes, as soon as their grain intake was consistent and at least one pound a day I began to taper down the milk. Imagine how I could have messed up this process if I just "dumped" extra milk on these calves.

I had a lot of open pasture land near my barns so extra milk fertilized the pasture before I went into the barn to clean up. As long as I spread the milk around the plants seemed to do just fine. It is, however, a great way to kill thistles and burdock plants.

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