Avoid feeding calves waste milk or risk cutting yields

Waste milk from the dairy parlour should not be fed to calves. That was the message to visitors attending last week’s Calf Company/Keenan Open Day at Pool Head Farm calf rearing unit, Winsford, Cheshire.

Simon Harper of the Calf Company said feeding waste milk containing antibiotics and/or high cell counts was “barraging” the developing gut. “It has a life-time effect reducing early growth that in dairy replacements significantly cuts initial milk yield.”

Instead, waste milk should be just that – waste. “It really is the best thing to pour it down the drain. Cow’s milk will never meet a calf’s daily requirement for minerals being, for example, low in vitamin E.”

Colostrum was a different story. “There is nothing better than natural cow’s colostrum – not even colostrum replacer – as it contains the natural antibodies for background disease found on the individual farm.

“When you have surplus colostrum use household plastic milk bottles and freeze after writing the cow’s ID and date on the container. It needn’t cost much. Buy an old chest freezer and you will have ample storage for little money.”

Savings could also be made when using commercial calf milk replacer. Automated mixing machines can cost £7 a calf a year over five years in depreciation alone for a medium-sized herd. “These are still prone to breakdown in cold weather.

“Instead, using a simple paddle mixing tub can improve milk replacer use by 10% and cost just a few hundred pounds to buy.”

A tip for producers is to group infant calves according to the speed they drink milk and body size. At Pool Head Farm this helped staff ensure batches of calves reared to 14 weeks of age – roughly 140kg liveweight – were even in size for customers with beef rearing units.

Read more from the Calf Company/Keenan Open Day

Simple routine boosts calf liveweight at Pool Head Farm
Too much milk replacer can stifle calf development