Vets are reminding producers that once-a-day milk feeding of calves is illegal and a direct breach of The Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock.

This follows a large proportion of calves recently diagnosed at Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) labs with abomasal disorders, such as bloat.

In a letter to the Vet Record, Guda van der Burgt of the AHVLA and Sophia Hepple from DEFRA, state that despite the existence of many milk powders marketed as being suitable for “once-a-day” feeding, it is against the law.

“It is illegal to feed calves under four weeks of age less than twice daily with liquid milk replacer. These calves should be inspected and fed twice daily with appropriate milk replacer.”

They stress that calves must be fed at least twice daily and have access to fibrous food (from two weeks of age) and water.

Once calves are consuming reasonable levels of concentrate and fibre, this can constitute part of twice daily feeding. However, in the first month of life, concentrate intakes are not sufficient to constitute one part of the minimum twice daily feeding stipulated.

Vet Matt Colston of Frame Swift and Partners believes feeding once a day is not only a breach of the code, but also a poor management decision.

“It might be convenient, but it is bad practice,” he says. “Calves will struggle to take on enough nutrition and growth will be adversely affected.

“There’s absolutely no need for it, especially considering there are automated systems available which reduce labour.”

When calves are fed once a day they are forced to take on a lot of milk, meaning they can’t clot the milk properly. Therefore they are unable to digest it correctly, leading to fermentation in the small intestine and a higher chance of bloat and -bomasal disorders.

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