Mix MIlk Right to Maximize Nutrition – Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita Plus

Posted on June 25, 2015 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita Plus dairy youngstock technical specialist
The summer months have no shortage of activities and projects on the farm, which makes it easy to forget the details as we rush from one task to the next.

However, what seem like minor details can have major impacts on calf performance.  These include things like proper mixing and feeding of milk replacer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you feed calves throughout the year.

Selecting a milk replacer
Milk replacers are formulated to provide a balance of nutrients to complement the starter grain program.  Milk replacers are typically described as a ratio of protein to fat.  For example, a 22:20 milk replacer contains 22 percent protein and 20 percent fat on an as-is basis.  The rest of the milk replacer contains lactose, minerals and additives.  The milk replacer nutrient composition and amounts of milk replacer fed are two primary factors impacting calf growth.

Selecting a total milk solids content
Whole milk solids content typically averages 12- to 12.5-percent solids.  Total solids content is often influenced by the desired amount of solids per calf per day and the volume capacity of the bottle or pail.  Target 12 to 14 percent.

Table 1 demonstrates the amount of milk solids fed per day with increasing total solids and quarts per calf per day.  Avoid feeding more than 2 percent of the calf’s birth bodyweight in milk replacer solids during the first 14 days of life.  Adjust feeding amounts to account for energy demands during cold weather.

Table 1. Pounds of milk solids/calf/d depending on total solids and quarts fed/calf/d.

qt/d Milk total solids, %
12 12.5 13 14 15
4 1.06 1.10 1.15 1.23 1.32
6 1.59 1.65 1.72 1.85 1.98
8 2.12 2.20 2.29 2.47 2.64
9 2.38 2.48 2.58 2.78 2.98
10 2.64 2.76 2.87 3.09 3.31

Start with clean and sanitized mixing and feeding equipment.  Determine the number of calves to feed, then weigh the needed water (mixing temperature between 110 and 115 degrees F to ensure a feeding temperature of 105 degrees F) and the milk replacer powder.  Add powder to water with continuous agitation.  Avoid over-mixing, but make sure all milk replacer is dissolved.

Table 2. Example mixing chart for 13% solids.

Number of calves Water, lb Milk replacer powder, lb Total milk replacer solution
(water + milk replacer), lb
1 4.2 0.63 4.8
2 8.4 1.3 9.7
3 12.6 1.9 14.5
4 16.8 2.5 19.3
5 21.0 3.2 24.2
6 25.2 3.8 29.0
7 29.4 4.4 33.8
8 33.6 5.0 38.6

Table 3. Generalized feeding rates for 13% solids.

Milk replacer, oz/fdg Milk replacer,
Milk replacer,
Water for 13% solids, lb Water,
Total milk replacer
solution weight
(water + milk replacer), lb
Bottle size,
6 170 0.37 2.5 1.2 2.9 2
8 277 0.50 3.4 1.6 3.9 2
10 284 0.63 4.2 2.0 4.8 3
12 340 0.75 5.0 2.4 5.8 3
14 396 0.88 5.9 2.8 6.8 4
16 453 1.00 6.7 3.2 7.7 4

Different medication and additive options are available for inclusion in your milk replacer program.  Work with your nutritionist to select products that best fit your program and challenges.  Table 4 provides an overview of common medications and additives.

Table 4.  Commonly used milk replacer medications and additives.

Neomycin/oxytetracycline Aids in treatment of bacterial enteritis (scours)
Bovatec® Control of coccidiosis
ClariFly® Larvicide prevents adult house flies, stable flies, face flies and horn flies from developing in and merging from the manure
Bio-Mos® Derivative of yeast and promotes intestinal health and gut integrity

Disease pressure also has a significant impact on calf health and performance.  Therefore, make the most of your nutrition program by reducing any disease agents that could affect your calves.  Cleaning your feeding equipment is a great place to start.

  • Use warm water (between 90 and 100 degrees F) to rinse dirt and milk residues off both the inside and the outside of feeding equipment (do not use hot water to rinse).
  • Soak the calf feeding equipment in a mixture of hot water (above 130 degrees F) and 1-percent chlorinated alkaline CIP detergent.
  • Thoroughly wash and scrub the inside and outside of feeding equipment with a brush using very hot water (145 degrees F).
  • Rinse using warm water containing 50 ppm chlorine dioxide.
  • Rinse equipment with acid (pH between 3 and 4) once or twice weekly to control milk stone.
  • Spray the inside and outside of equipment with a 50-ppm solution of chlorine dioxide and let stand for 1 minute.
  • Allow equipment to dry before using it again.

Category: Calf and heifer nutrition
Starting Strong - Calf Care