Summary Article on Forage Feeding
for Young Calves
This short article summarizes in readable form much of the biology of rumen development among young milk-fed calves.
The link is https://extension.psu.edu/new-thoughts-old-question-should-we-feed-calves-forage
The bottom line at the end of the article is that forage feeding rates in the range of 5 to 10 percent of total intake is a workable goal.
Depending on the size of the calf operation on an individual dairy different methods of including forage may be needed.
With my calves (100 on milk most of the year) I did not have an easy way to get chopped hay. If I had calves consuming around 2 to 3 pounds of textured starter per day it only took 2 ounces of hay per day to equal 5 percent. Ever try to measure 2 ounces of hay?
My solution was to put a handful of good quality second-cutting alfalfa hay in the top of their grain pail three days a week (that made it easy to feed hay on Mon, Wed and Fri). As the calves approached full weaning at 49-52 days of age (eating 5 to 6# of grain daily) I was a little more liberal with the hay.
I did not depend on relief workers to feed hay - they consistently overfed hay by a factor of 100 to 200 percent.
When my calves moved from individual housing to group housing (5 calves per pen) I limit-fed hay the first week to what they would clean up in around 1/2 an hour per day.