Starter Grain Intake by Age
for Milk-Fed Calves
As part of a research trial the starter grain consumption was measured daily. (Laberge, R.J. "Early starter intake by nursery calves: the impact on growth, health and gastrointestinal development" Minnesota Nutrition Conference, pp 134-135, 2013).
Calves had ad lib water and starter grain. They were fed 22:20 milk replacer at the rate of 1.5% of birth weight (for example, 90 pound birth weight = 22 ounces (612g) milk replacer) mixed at 12.5% solids until 42 days of age. Then for days 43-49 they receive one feeding daily. No forage was fed.
The average age at which the calves reached selected intakes of starter grain were:
Starter Grain Age
Intake level (days)
250 .55 19
500 1.1 24
1,000 2.2 31
2,000 4.4 44
On the basis of slaughter data of these 18 calves the authors hypothesized that gastrointestinal health could have been improved by the addition of small amounts of forage to the ration after a benchmark level of starter grain had been reached. For example, after 1,000 g/day level was reached add 20-40 grams of hay (0.1 lbs.).
Based on my on-farm observations with many dairies there is a significant problem using level of grain intake to begin adding forage to the ration. Most calf rearing enterprises that house calves individually do not measure or estimate in any way daily starter grain intakes. The grain pails are just kept between 1/4 and 3/4 full without any significant effort to track consumption rates.