Video: What to look for in a quality milk replacer

When feeding a milk replacer, it’s important to give serious consideration to the product that lies within the bag. The days of picking up the first bag you see in your local merchant should be well and truly over.

It is important that dairy-origin calves for beef production get off to the best start in life, so that these animals will reach future growth targets. It is also vital to provide the calf with sufficient energy and protein to support and maintain their normal bodily functions.

Also, in the early stages of life, quality – not just quantity – is vital. Farmers need to choose a milk replacer with a consistent formulation of quality ingredients. A young calf – under four weeks-of-age – doesn’t have any great rumen activity, so the more milk products that are in the product, the better.

In the video (below), Volac’s Liam Gannon outlines what included ingredients are important in a milk replacer, and what farmers should look out for when purchasing the product.

“For a young calf, the more milk you feed calves – be it whole milk or milk replacer in the first eight weeks of life – the better the food conversion rate; you have a 2:1 conversion rate with milk or milk replacer under eight-to-10 weeks-of-age,” Liam explains.

“Farmers tend to get hooked up on how much protein and how much oil is in the product. But, it’s what the protein is coming from is the main thing – what’s making up that protein – is it milk protein or is it vegetable protein?

“You want a milk replacer that’s going to have a very high level of whey-protein concentrate as declared first ingredient; or else a skim milk replacer.

“Generally, with the skim milk replacer, you need to be looking at 50-55% skim inclusion to have a really good quality skim, that’s going to clot the same way as whole milk,” Liam said.

A good milk replacer:
  • Minimum of 20% protein declared;
  • Maximum of 8% ash declared – a target for ash content should be 6.5-7.5%;
  • Minimum of 0.8% calcium;
  • Fat inclusion: 18-20%.

Protein quality can be an issue, particularly in the first month of life, so it is important that the milk replacer used has sufficient (contains mainly) milk-derived proteins during this period.

Fat levels should be 18-20%; these levels will encourage early intake of concentrate ration. The product should also include sufficient minerals and vitamins.

Part 1: Video series: The complete guide to buying and rearing dairy-beef calves
Part 2: Video: What can I pay for dairy-beef calves?
Part 3: Video: What questions should I ask dairy farmers when sourcing dairy-beef calves?
Part 4: The importance of choosing dairy calves with the right genetics for beef production
Part 5: Video: How to examine the calf prior to purchase for dairy-beef systems
Part 6: Video: The correct housing environment for calves is crucial for top performance
Part 7: Video: How to manage the dairy calf on arrival to the beef farm