Auto Feeder Weaning Method and
Rates of Gain When Feeding High Levels of Milk
Which weaning method should you use with an automatic milk feeder when feeding high levels of milk? A continuous gradual program - small equal amounts over 14 days? A multi-step gradual program with 2 or 3 L increments over 14 days?
Calves were offered 12L/day until day 43. Then they were enrolled on one of the two weaning programs (as above). Weaning was completed on day 57.
"Feed intake (calf starter grain) did not differ between treatments in the milk feeding, weaning and post-weaning periods." (feed was 95% mixed concentrate and 5% chopped straw)
"Growth rates did not vary by treatment during milk feeding and post-weaning periods."
Both groups of calves had an abrupt drop in gains right at weaning.
The gains for continuous gradual program calves dropped from 1.08kg/day (2.4#/day) to 590g/day (1.3#/day) the week they were weaned. The gains for multi-step gradual program calves dropped from 940g/day (2.1#/day) to 700g/day (1.5#/day) the week they were weaned.
Before long (during days 57 to 70) the gains for both groups rebounded back up to about 1.2kg/day (2.6#/day). As best I can tell from reading the research report the calves remained on the same dry ration from days 57 to 70 as they adapted to being weaned (that is, they did no suddenly receive ad lib forages).
Regardless of the weaning program, final weaning represented a big short-time stressful event. Our management should avoid adding other stresses at the same time in order maintain good calf health and avoid the need to treat calves for pneumonia.
Reference: Parsons, S.D., and Others "Effect of type of gradual weaning program on intakes and growth of dairy calves fed a high level of milk." Journal of Dairy Science Supplement #2 2018 p260