Many farms rearing calves this spring are now at a stage where the calves are eating sufficient amounts of dry feed and are ready to be weaned off milk replacer.
Correct management when transitioning calves off milk replacer and onto dry feed is essential to ensure calves continue to thrive and do not suffer any health and performance setbacks.
As part of the Advantage Beef Programme’s Spring Dairy-Beef Series, Advantage farm liaison team leader, Amy Coonan, has shared advice on best practice when weaning calves off milk replacer.
In the video below, Amy outlines the steps taken on the ABP Demo Farm when weaning calves off milk replacer:
She explained that calves should be weaned off milk replacer based on their concentrate intake rather than just their weight and age.
“It’s important calves are eating at least 1kg of concentrates/day before you consider weaning them. This ensures that their rumen has fully developed and they’re ready to move over to that solid diet,” she said.
On the ABP Demo Farm, calves have access to ad-lib straw and ad-lib concentrates when they are weaned off milk.
Calves are fed straw to scratch the rumen and encourage rumen papillae growth which helps to ensure a healthy calf rumen going forward. Calves are offered straw as opposed to hay as they only eat the amount of straw they require which encourages them to eat more concentrates.
The calves go on once-a-day milk feeding from 28 days-of-age. Calves then get 600g of milk powder mixed in 3L of water.
Calves remain on this level of milk feed until they are eating 1.5-2kg concentrates/head/day. Once they are eating this level, they are gradually weaned.
The calves move from 600g of milk powder in 3L of water to 400g of milk powder in 2L of water and this is gradually pulled back until the calves are fully weaned.
Once weather conditions allow and the calves have settled, the weaned calves go out to grass. When at grass, the calves are fed concentrates every day and also have access to ad-lib straw for feeding.
Offering straw to calves at grass helps in the transition as calves will be familiar with it and will eat plenty of straw when learning how to graze.
Progressing into the summer months, calves will continue to be fed concentrates and the amount fed will depend on factors such as weather, grass quality and if they are hitting their growth targets or not.
“Don’t be shy with they concentrates, they are expensive but it will pay down the line,” Amy advised.