The first six months of a calf’s life is only 8% of its total life but is responsible for 25% of their total body weight. Therefore, it is of critical importance to give your calf the best start in life as possible.

Sexual maturity in female calves is directly linked to the weight of the animal more than age. The cost associated with trying to achieve target weights of female calves so that they are ready to breed at 15 months is a big proportion of the overall cost of your replacement heifers.

This highlights the fact that during the calf rearing phase you need to achieve weight gains of between 0.75-1kg/head/day to have any hope of reaching their targets.

Targets to improve performance:

  • Weaning: Calves should be at least double their birth weight (if calves don’t reach their target weights at weaning, studies show that first lactation heifers can be back by 156L of milk);
  • Calving: Heifers should be 90% of their mature bodyweight;
  • 22-24 months: The age at first calving.

Why feed milk replacer?

Teagasc research shows that calves can grow equally as well on milk replacer as whole milk diets; however, this is providing that the milk replacer is formulated correctly from good quality ingredients and is fed accordingly to instructions.

One of the main advantages of feeding milk replacer over whole milk is the fact that calves fed milk replacer can consume 33% more concentrates over the rearing phase. This is due to the fat content of whole milk is always higher and gives the calf a fuller feeling throughout the day.

Choosing a milk replacer: What to look for – skim or whey?

Skimmed milk: Got from milk with most of the milk fat (cream) removed. Skim milk is then dried, and we are left with skim milk powder. The protein is mainly casein, like whole milk. Casein forms a clot in the abomasum and is digested like whole milk, slowly over time.

In comparison, whey-based powders are digested much more quickly and in the absence of casein do not form a clot. Whey is a by-product of cheese production.

Traditional thinking was that skim is better, but whey powders can also perform very well and may encourage earlier dry feed intake. To strike the correct balance between the two is the perfect solution, with the extra performance from the skim and the increased intake of dry feed from the whey.

Proteins

Protein levels must support accelerated growth and tissue development in calves in early life.

Proteins in milk replacers must contain at least 70% dairy proteins, calves at a young age cannot digest vegetable proteins. The amount of milk protein in milk replacer determines the quality of the powder.

Fats/oils

These will be generally made up of vegetable fats such as soybean, palm oil and coconut. Too high a level of fats can suppress intakes and lead to scouring, required levels of 16- 20%.

Fibre

This is a good indicator of protein quality. Fibre levels greater than 0.2% indicate that the protein is more heavily weighted towards lower quality plant protein sources.

Ash

Whole milk has an ash content of between 5.5-6%. Milk replacers will always have a higher ash content as it indicates the addition of minerals and vitamins. Required levels – 6- 8%.

What has Liffey Mills Elvor High Performance got to offer:

  • 25% protein;
  • A skim and whey-based powder;
  • Contains mainly dairy proteins;
  • Its vitamin and trace element content aids in reducing any setbacks in the early stages of a calf’s life;
  • Available in 25kg bags;
  • Competitively priced – big bag at a small bag price.

Liffey Mills customer Michael Culhane from Killaloe, Co. Clare, has been using Elvor Performance for the past three years.

He said: “As a member of the Green Acres Calf to Beef Group, I have used Elvor Milk Replacer for several years.

Michael Culhane Killaloe Co. Clare, pictured with Liffey Mills technical sales advisor Brendan Ryan

“The choice of milk replacer is important to me as the first eight weeks of a calf’s life are vital to its development and future growth. I have chosen Elvor Milk Replacer as it is high in protein and contains the correct balance of dairy and vegetable proteins.

“This encourages the calves to develop their rumen and move on seamlessly to Liffey Mills Calf 18 Ration. Elvor powder is easy to mix and can be fed hot or cold. Another important consideration is the competitive price of Elvor.”

Want to know more?

Elvor Performance is available in stockists nationwide. For further information, call your Liffey Mills technical advisor today, or check out the website at: www.liffeymills.ie.