Key points to look for in a milk replacer this spring

With milk replacer being on the shopping list for a lot of farmers over the next few weeks, they should also be taking note of ingredients to aid calf performance during the rearing period.

As part of the second episode of ‘The Calf Show’ series, hosted by AgriLand this evening (Tuesday, February 23), our panellists discussed the subject of calf feeding and maintaining hygiene during the rearing stage.

Reviewing the topic of milk replacer – Rebecca O’Sullivan, from Volac, highlighted some of the key ingredients that farmers need to be looking and how this may determine value for money in the products they are buying this spring.


When discussing the ingredients that farmers should be looking for, Rebecca stated:

“You want your top ingredient in a milk replacer to be either a whey protein or a skim. This will be the most digestible for your calves and they would be 35% of protein sources. So they will obviously be the main ones to look for.

“We would be pushing for whey protein-based milk replacer over whey powder. Whey protein would be used in muscle development in human nutrition as well and that’s where we see better performance.

“After that, if farmers look at the label of the products, the ingredients are in descending order. The top ingredient is your main one, and everything underneath that follows suit.

The number of ingredients is also another important factor – if there are a lot of ingredients, then the main one won’t be as high as you would like it to be.

“So as little as possible when it comes to ingredients, with your main dairy sources coming from your whey protein or your skim – as this will be the highest quality for them.”

‘You get what you pay for’

When it comes to the cost around milk replacer this spring, “you will get what you pay for”, according to Rebecca. She explained:

“Prices can range from €35/bag up to €45/bag or so – again it comes back to the main ingredients within that product such as your whey protein or your skim-based product. You want between 20-23% protein and 18-20% of oil [this will be the source of fat].

You will want a higher protein and lower fat – as it is all about developing skeletal and muscular growth in our calves.

“Then you will want to make sure that your ash is less than 8% and your fibre is less than 0.15%. They are the real important factors in the overall quality of the product – this will determine the price.”

Watch the second episode of ‘The Calf Show’ series below