What is transition milk and why is it so important?

On the final day of the Animal Health Ireland and Teagasc Calf Care virtual week, the focus was milk feeding the young calf.

Teagasc researcher Emer Kennedy outlined the importance of feeding 6L of milk to calves per day. She highlighted the importance of following the correct guideline for making up the milk replacer by following the guidelines of the product being used.

Feeding milk replacer is common practice on many farms. There is a wide range of milk replacer powders available, each with their advantages and disadvantages on nutritional content and cost.

Some milk powders are suited to specific rearing systems so it is important to match the powder to the system employed.

The best temperature to feed milk replacer to calves is generally 42°, but this can vary depending on the manufacture’s specifications.

The bottom line is that liquid feed is best provided at a constant temperature, i.e. avoid feeding warm milk one day, cool milk the next.

Don’t forget

Emer stated that: ”Farmers are aware of the importance of feeding colostrum to calves in the first two hours of life. But do not forget to feed transition milk to calves – transition milk is milk collected from milking’s two to six.

”Although the calves cannot absorb anymore antibodies once it is 24 hours old. Consuming transition milk has a local effect in the gut that keeps the calf healthier and stops it getting sick.

”Calves should receive at least four feeds of transition milk, particularly if you are vaccinating cows for scours, calves should be offered 2-2.5L/feed, twice a day.

”At the end of calves’ first week of life, the calf should be drinking should be drinking 6L of milk.”