As most of the calves bought out of the dairy herd will not be weaned, they will require a replacement for their mother’s milk.
In general a milk replacer or milk powder will need to be fed to the calves for their first few weeks of life.
A milk replacer is the ideal feed for dairy calves as it will contain a lot of the vitamins and minerals otherwise provided from the cow.
Any milk replacer should contain a minimum of 20% protein and ideally 23% protein. This is so that the calf will have enough nutrition to grow to its full potential. Anything less than this will impact on daily liveweight gain and frame growth.
Before buying in your calves, you need to set up or decided on a feeding system, eg warm or cold ad lib, once or twice a day, a bucket system or a computer type system even if numbers are aren't large. All systems are perfectly sound and everyone must tailor their system to suit themselves with regards to labour and facilities etc.
How much milk replacer to feed?
To ensure that the calf is properly feed, not just adequately feed, they should be consuming at least 800g of milk powder, not liquid. At this rate of feeding, the calf will consume approximate 40kg of milk powder. Some farmers feel that at this strong level of consumption that up to 30 days could be taken off the finishing period, worth noting certainly.
The milk replacer being used should contain at least 18-20% fat content, this should contain adequate minerals and vitamins. Milk replacer with this content value will also encourage the uptake of the early intake of meal.
Offer meal to the calves as early as the first week to encourage the calves to take up eating meal and offering some straw or hay for roughage. Any calf starter meal being fed should contain at least 18-20% crude protein and it is best stick with a special calf starter concentrate feed, which will address the other feed requirements like starch sugars and sufficient fibre.
The best reason to get the calves eating meal early on is so that at weanling time, they are capable of getting all their feed requirements when the milk replacer is stopped.For every 1kg of meal a calf will consume at this time, he will need 4-5 litres of water, as having enough water will encourage him to eat the meal offered.
Do not count the water in the milk replacer towards this, as milk bypasses the rumen in healthy calves.
Daily liveweight gain
Perfectly healthy calves being feed properly could be expected to gain
0.7 – 0.8kg per day.
Regular weighing at such times as purchase, and after 6-8 weeks which is the ideal weaning age is recommended.
Many farmers would be quite anxious to wean their calves off milk replacer as soon as possible and economically it would make sense to do so, but first make sure of the following.
6-8 weeks of age ( minimum)
Must be consuming at least 1kg of meal per day for at least 3-5 days prior to weaning
To take the most care, step down the milk replacer over a number of days. This will avoid rumen upset, which in turn avoids any slow down in daily liveweight gain. This will also avoid stress to the calf and make for a success transition to weanling.
Prices still below the magic 400c/kg for the heifers and bullocks, no change in prices due to good supplies from the winter feedlots.
Good supplies of grass cattle coming on stream as grass buyers are starting to become more active as the year pushes on.
Good clearance rates are reported from the marts with lighter quality lots proving the best trade.