Pelleted compared to Textured
Calf Starter Grain
[Yet, another chapter]
A research project run between August and October 2016 in Minnesota had the objective of comparing starch levels in calf grains to see if there would be differences in rates of gain and feed conversion efficiency. Calves were fed 20-20 milk replacer at the rate of 1.25# of powder daily.
The comparison grain was a textured calf grain with 30 percent starch. The pelleted grains had starch levels of 18, 24 and 30 percent.
1. There were no significant differences in gains among calves fed the three pelleted feeds that contained different levels of starch.
2. The textured starter gains among calves were 1.5 #/day compared to 1.3 #/day for the pelleted feeds. That is a 17.5% difference when comparing textured to pelleted feeds.
Feed conversion findings
1. There were no significant differences in feed efficiency among calves fed the three pelleted feeds that contained different levels of starch.
2. The gain-to-feed ratio (measure of feed conversion efficiency) was 0.57 for textured-starter fed calves compared to 0.52 for calves receiving the pelleted feed. That is a 9% reduction in feed efficiency when pelleted is compared to textured feed.
Other observations: No differences in health costs and daily fecal scores among the four feeds.
Conclusion by authors:
"Under the conditions of this study, calf performance was reduced with a complete pelleted starter regardless of starch level compared with the textured starter with 30 percent starch." (p116)
They continued, "Cost savings with a complete pelleted starter may still provide economical gains over a textured starter with 30 percent starch." (p116)
I checked our local mill (in July 2017) for prices. For a 20% protein product, the textured feed delivered to our vet clinic cost was $351 per ton bulk [minimum 3 T) compared to $327 for the pelleted product.
The choice of product may have more to do with the on-farm facilities for storage and feeding rather than either the rate of gain and/or price of feed.
When caring for my own calves I chose to feed the textured product until calves were about seven weeks old, fed a 50:50 blend of textured:pelleted for a week, then grower pelleted feed from then on. Recall that I was feeding milk replacer at a maximum of 2.2#/day from weeks 2-5 so getting calves to eat starter before 5 weeks was challenging.
Reference: Zeigler, D. and Others, "Pre- and post-weaning performance and health of dairy calves fed complete pelleted calf starters formulated for three different starch levels." Journal of Dairy Science 100:116 July 2017.