Beyond the Barn: Predicting Calf Starter Usage – Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita Plus

Posted on April 20, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita Plus dairy youngstock technical specialist
Estimating starter grain needs for your calf operation can be challenging.  For most farms, starter intake averages around 1.2 to 1.8 pounds per day for the 60-day nursery phase.  Starter intake increases as calves get older and typically peaks at 5 to 7 pounds at 60 days for Holstein calves.  Additional factors – such as surges in calving intensity, amount of starter grain shrink during rainy periods if calves are fed in pails outside, and the amount of starter grain fed to transition calves – all increase the complexity of estimating calf starter grain usage and inventory.

We developed a simple Calf Starter Usage Calculator to help take some of the guesswork out of estimating the amount of calf starter needed.  Below is a demonstration of this simple calculator.  The user entered calf operation values into the yellow boxes.  The white boxes are calculated values using formulas based on the data entered.

In the example below, if feed delivery is scheduled to occur monthly, the amount of starter grain needed during that 30-day time period would be 2.3 tons based on feeding 25 calves at a rate of 1.8 pounds per day and 25 weaned calves at a rate of 4 pounds per day.  Additionally, an estimated 5-percent shrink was included to account for starter spoiled by rain events.  The output is provided in pounds, bags and tons.

During summer months, target a maximum of one month between deliveries to keep starter grain fresh.  Work with your bin supplier to estimate the capacity of your bin.  Most starter grains range in bulk density from 35 to 40 pounds per cubic foot.

Contact your Vita Plus consultant for assistance in calculating your calf starter usage.

Category: Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care