Choosing the Right Calf Milk Replacer
A good milk replacer should have 20% or 22% protein content. All calves should be on an all-milk or all animal protein source milk replacer. Alternative protein sources result in decreased availability and diarrhea.
Crude fat provides a concentrated energy source as well as essential fatty acids. During the winter, energy demands are increased and using a higher energy (20% fat) milk replacer is recommended. Some companies provide seasonal milk replacers, in which the fat content is adjusted for energy needs during warm or cold weather. Additionally, milk replacer quantities fed should increase 25%-50% during the colder months with gradual step ups in volume.
Fiber indicates the amount of plant protein contained in the product. Therefore, calves less than 3 weeks old should be on a product that contains less than 0.5% crude fiber.
Other Common Ingredients and Tips
Lecithin and Polyoxyethylene Glycol Mono and Dioleates (PEG 400) are emulsifiers that aid in the dispersal of fat into solution. It is important for the milk replacer to mix well. Improper mixing can lead to poor absorption and gastrointestinal problems. Vitamins A, D, and E are necessary for growth and good health. L-lysine and DL-Methionine are essential amino acids for growth.
Be sure to use warm water (100 °F) with any milk replacer! This will help form a curd in the calfs stomach, as well as stimulating the calf’s esophageal groove, which is a structure that bypasses the rumen into the abomasum (glandular stomach). Fermentation occurs when milk replacer is exposed to the ruminal bugs.