Step 5:

Problem-free start with calf milk replacers

Smart and problem-free introduction of calf milk replacer

After the colostrum, the focus needs to be on growth and development of the calf's immunity. Poor feeding in the initial days can have immediate consequences for the development of the calf into a productive dairy cow. Start with a high dosage of calf milk replacer directly after the colostrum therefore.

Calf milk replacer is introduced after the initial colostrum or after a few days.

Most dairy farmers switch to calf milk replacer after 1, 2 or 3 days of colostrum. The timing depends on the farmer's management. Some dairy farmers switch directly to calf milk replacer after the colostrum in order to minimise the risk of transfer of pathogens from the cow to the calf. Others continue to feed colostrum on days 2 and 3, due to it being rich in nutrients and contributing to intestinal health.

Both systems have advantages: one focuses on limitation of disease transmission, the other on the calves' immunity. The health status and other specific farm aspects determine what is best for individual farms.

A mix of calf milk replacer and colostrum or 100 percent calf milk replacer directly

The manner of switching from colostrum to calf milk replacer also varies. Where some dairy farmers immediately introduce 100 percent calf milk replacer, others mix 1 or more calf milk feeds through the colostrum. As long as the calf milk replacer is mixed in the correct concentration, direct switching is very rarely problematic however.

Keep the litre volume constant

It is important not to increase the feed volume on the day of switching. After feeding 2 times 3 litres of colostrum therefore, also start with 2 times 3 litres of calf milk replacer. During the first week, the concentration of calf milk replacer must be 150 grams per litre. This feeding method allows the calf to continue to grow. The intestinal tract remains filled and becomes stronger each day.

Rearing bucket best solution for first days

In the first few days, it is advisable to feed via a teat. The sucking motion and saliva formed transports the milk directly to the fourth stomach. The milk is digested evenly and comprehensively, and the calf will grow and develop incredibly quickly.

Never underestimate hygiene!

Calves are extremely sensitive to fluctuations and cleanliness in the first days of their lives. Ensure that each milk feed is freshly prepared therefore. All equipment must be cleaned after each feed. Prepare and feed the milk in a clean, orderly and consistent manner.

Only milk suffices in the first week

Many problems can be avoided by only feeding milk during the first days, and staying away from pellets or muesli. After the first 5 days, the calves can be fed a handful of calf pellets. Make sure they are dust-free and agreeably tasting. Replenish the calf pellets at least once daily. Calves who are fed sufficient milk will require little to no concentrated feed in their first week. That is by no means a problem in this phase.

There is no need to feed muesli. Muesli is often fed because it looks so healthy. Muesli is sweet and tasty. However, the risk is that calves will eat too much muesli, which they cannot digest well in the first week, thus increasing the risk of diarrhoea.

Maximise the growth potential of the calf

Good nutrition remains important throughout the period up until weaning of course. It is however extra important during the first week of life. As a dairy farmer, you have but one chance to effectively initiate the immunity development and growth of the calf. That growth is essential for prompt development of the gastro-intestinal system, the organs and the udder tissue. Optimum growth right from day one prevents diseases and growth stops in the period up to weaning, allowing you to take full advantage of the genetic potential of the animal at a later stage.

More about calf rearing with Sprayfo

  • Calf milk replacer for the best ‘life start’

  • Calculate the profit of extra growth in calf rearing

  • Sprayfo Excellent: for maximum growth and health


Make the most of calf milk replacer

How to aim at the best possible growth directly after birth of your calves? Ask the Sprayfo rearing specialist in your region! 

Direct advice