More than half the replacement heifer calves being reared on UK commercial dairy units could be growing too slowly to hit targets for optimal health and lifetime productivity.


New practical research, carried out by a team from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), has found that 70% of nearly 500 pre-weaned calves on 11 dairy farms in south east England had growth rates below the recommended 0.7kg per day and of these 20% grew at less than 0.5kg per day. More than 70% of the heifers studied were pure Holsteins.

The amount of milk solids fed to individual calves on the 11 farms over their first 63 days of life ranged from 16kg to 56kg. Weaning age varied between 37 and 97 days.

The work was co-funded by the Biotechnical and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Volac. Research scientists hope the study findings will encourage more dairy farmers to feed calves more milk during the pre-weaned phase and to monitor growth rates more closely.


According to Professor Claire Wathes, who led the RVC study team, the amount of milk offered correlated positively with growth. “To achieve the recommended growth rate of at least 0.7kg per day, calves need at least 750g of milk powder per day. They should also be offered calf starter ad lib, together with forage and clean water. This improves animal health, as well as growth, and sets them up to calve for the first time by the optimum two years of age,” she said.

Dr Jessica Cooke, research scientist with Volac, pointed out that the calf experiences significant health and environmental stresses during the first two weeks of life and that feeding more milk from a few days of age is important for lifetime productivity.“

During the first few weeks of life, calves are unable to eat enough dry feed to meet their energy requirements and are almost entirely dependent on their milk feed,” she said.

“Early growth restriction can affect the long-term performance of the adult cow. As expected, the heifer calves offered more milk in the RVC study were found to have better growth rates up to 63 days of age. But this research also highlights the growth benefits long after weaning of providing a good milk supply in early life. Those fed more were heavier and taller at seven months of age.


As a result of this work and other studies, Volac has recently refined its milk feeding recommendations. The result is a ‘best- practice’ feed plan to achieve optimum results.


“As a guide, calves should be fed five litres per day following the colostrum period, increasing to a minimum of six litres per day from day eight through to 35 days of age. Milk replacer levels should then be gradually reduced over a three-week period before weaning at day 56 (see table). After three weeks, the rumen should have enough bacteria fermenting enough solid feed to supply substantial amounts of energy, ensuring no growth setbacks around weaning,” Dr Cooke said.

Recommended milk feeding plan, with a 3-week weaning period,
for calves fed twice daily:

Twice daily feeding rates (litres)*
*Milk replacer mixed at either 12.5% or 15%.

Latest Technical Bulletin – Weaning the High Fed Milk Calf


Calf Jackets

Feeding calves high volumes of milk helps them to achieve their early growth potential – and this is beneficial to their lifetime milk production. Calves fed more milk will not be driven by hunger to eat solid feed, since their hunger will be satisfied by the milk, and consequently may eat less starter. But high milk fed calves can be encouraged to eat solid feed by implementing management strategies, balancing the intake of nutrients from both milk and solid feed.

Our latest technical bulletin covers:

  • The role of solid feed
  • Social housing
  • Weaning

Download today and get all the latest advice. 



Calf rearers will demand better nutritional solutions over the next 10 years to meet more exacting young animal health and development requirements and this will continue to drive an increase in performance-formulated milk replacer usage.

Volac Heiferlac Sack Mockup_LRGolden Maverick HiSpec Sack Mockup_LRVolac Olympian Instant Sack Mockup_LR

Volac Blossom Easymix Sack Mockup_LRVolac Blossom HiSpec Sack Mockup_LR

That’s according to independent vet Dave Gilbert from Dairy Insight, who recently highlighted this issue while reviewing the key results of a series of in-depth interviews with more than 600 (644) GB dairy and beef calf rearers carried out by Volac in November 2017.

The research project repeated a detailed market study exercise carried out 10 years ago. The findings show that youngstock rearing practices have changed significantly since 2007 and will continue to evolve to meet various challenges.


More calves are being fed milk replacer

“Over the last 10 years there has been nearly a three-fold increase in number of dairy calves reared on milk replacer and a five-fold increase in the number of beef calves reared on artificial milk replacers. This has been driven in part by a greater appreciation of the disease threat from feeding whole and waste milk, but also by new recommended herd efficiency targets and basic economics. We can only see that trend accelerating,” Mr Gilbert said.

According to the new research, 58% of GB dairy calves and 52% of GB beef calves are now fed milk replacer. Most of the remainder continue to be reared on whole milk.

The research study also showed that 60% of the calf rearers interviewed now see their vet as the most valued and trusted source of calf rearing advice.

“Vets are definitely becoming more engaged with youngstock health issues and it seems farmers are turning to them for nutrition and calf husbandry advice too. I’ve certainly experienced this personally with the farmers I work with and there is no doubt there is increasing recognition of the need to invest more in these young animals that represent the future of any herd,” Mr Gilbert added.

Farmers are looking for better quality ingredients

When evaluating calf milk replacers, the latest research shows that overall ingredient quality is now the key feature farmers are looking for; in 2007 this was deemed far less important, with availability in store being the leading attribute sought when making a product choice for rearing calves.

Against this background, Volac has been re-examining high quality calf milk replacer formulation; not in terms of finding an artificial product to replace milk, but rather identifying the best possible nutritional solution for the pre-weaned young calf. The conclusion is that whey protein contains the magical components of milk that are so fundamental for calf programming and development.

“Milk is a complex collection of ingredients designed specifically to ‘communicate’ to the calf.

“It provides ingredients for growth, it primes the immune system, it assists in pathogen control and it shapes the future growth and development of the calf during the critical first few weeks of life. But these goals are predominantly delivered by bioactive components in the whey protein fraction of milk, which are at their highest concentration in colostrum but present at lower levels in whole milk.”

Mr Watson explained that whey protein represents 65% of the protein content of colostrum, whereas the other 35% is casein protein. The whey protein content of whole milk is only 20%.


Introducing Imunopro: a concentrated whey protein base material

“What Volac is now able to do is to filter and concentrate up the liquid whey protein fraction of milk and collect the important proteins, fats, sugars and other bioactive components so important for calf programming. The resultant important ingredient, now integral to all our calf milk replacer formulations, is Imunopro – a concentrated whey protein base material packed with the vital amino acids and immunoglobulins so necessary for healthy calf growth and development.

“Production of this concentrated whey protein also means we can now precision-formulate our milk replacers based on true protein, which involves looking at the crucial limiting amino acids for calves – such as lysine and leucine – just as pig and poultry sector nutritionists have done so effectively in recent years for monogastric species.

“Incidentally, leucine is critical in driving the rate of muscle protein synthesis in the calf. It is also the reason why whey is the protein source of choice for human athletes seeking optimum performance,” Mr Watson added.

He also pointed out that Imunopro concentrates up 16 times the amount of milk fats in comparison with whey or skim powders. “This gives our new milk replacer formulations vital energy from microscopic oil droplets surrounded by important phospholipids and sphingolipids. However, this vital fat fraction is also important for rapid gut maturation in the calf and, additionally, gives the final milk replacer products valuable anti-bacterial properties.”

Volac’s team of nutritionists has now re-formulated its entire range calf milk replacer products based on Imunopro. The result is an exciting portfolio of new performance-formulated products.


New calf milk formula range  

Volac’s new range of calf milk replacers that have been performance-formulated to give dairy and beef calves the best possible start in life. The Lifeguard milk formula range has been designed to meet the rapidly evolving demands of modern calf rearers.

Based on concentrated whey protein, which makes up the majority of the protein fraction of natural cow colostrum, the new milk replacers incorporate only the highest quality ingredients.

“All our new products incorporate Imunopro –  a concentrated whey protein base material packed with the vital amino acids, fats, sugars and immunoglobulins so necessary for healthy calf growth and development,” said global product manager Niall Jaggan.

Volac makes Imunopro from liquid whey and then formulates in a balanced range of high quality nutrition and health ingredients to meet modern calf development requirements.

“The first phase is liquid blending where the Imunopro milk complex is balanced with the necessary additional protein, oils and sugars required to allow calves to hit optimum growth and development targets when fed recommended daily amounts of milk replacer.

“The protein is balanced to ensure calves will be fed the optimum amount of true protein in the form of essential amino acids. It is important to appreciate that the crude protein content on the bag label does not give you an indication of the useable protein available to the calf,” Mr Jaggan pointed out.

“The oil is balanced with high quality vegetable fats to mimic the milk fat profile, plus the addition of butyrate (C4:0), which has been shown recently to improve gut health.

“The sugars are also balanced to ensure the final milk replacer product contains the correct energy level to meet accepted target growth rates.

“The fully balanced liquid blend is then spray dried for optimum mixability, palatability and consistency before, finally, the addition of Volac’s proven package of health ingredients (Gardion and Nutry-Lyst), plus enhanced levels of vitamins and minerals,”

Calf Jackets

Four calf milk replacer products make up the new Lifeguard range for UK calf rearers, with each product performance formulated to meet specific growth rate targets:

  • High performance Heiferlac, which drives 900g of calf growth per day.

HeiferlacScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 14.41.25Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 14.39.57Piechart

  • Blossom High Spec, the considered solution for large herds also looking to achieve 900g of calf growth per day

Volac Blossom HiSpec Sack Mockup_LRScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.29.20Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.28.14Blossom Pie Chart

  • Golden Maverick High Spec, the considered solution for large herds also looking to achieve 900g of calf growth per day

Golden Maverick HiSpec Sack Mockup_LRScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.39.05 Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.32.04Maverick PieChart

  • Blossom Easymix, the tried and trusted product to drive 750g of calf growth per day

Volac Blossom Easymix Sack Mockup_LRScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.40.38Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.40.23Easymix piechart

  • Olympian, developed specifically for modern beef enterprises and traditional dairy units to give exceptionally cost effective growth rates

Volac Olympian Instant Sack Mockup_LRScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.47.08Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 17.46.49Olympian Piechart

  • Enerlac, which is specifically designed as a cost-effective solution for beef or mixed enterprises looking for 625g of calf growth per day

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 18.07.43Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 14.41.25Enerlac Designed to drive

Enerlac Pie Chart


The Great Volac Milk Ride 2017: Charity Cycle Ride for Cancer Research

Late last year, a team of Volac cyclists, support crew and guests travelled to Clonakilty in
southern Ireland for Volac’s ninth biennial charity cycling event. The thirty-nine intrepid riders completed the physical challenge of cycling more than 125 miles, over hills, through rain, wind and sunshine around County Cork, to raise funds in support of Cancer Research UK.


The Great Volac Milk Ride is a longstanding tradition within the business and it has given keen and talented Volac cyclists opportunities over the years to ride across Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, through the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and over the mountains of Italy.

An ambitious fundraising goal was set for this edition, particularly because each ride has always surpassed the previous in terms of charity giving. Riders for the 2014 event raised a total of around £19,000 in sponsorship, so the goal this time was particularly ambitious. But, thanks to the generosity of donors, sponsors and customers, the participants managed to achieve their target and collected over £20,000!

This amount, as on every other occasion, was generously match-funded by a contribution from The Betty Lawes Foundation. The Foundation is Volac’s own grant-giving charity that allows it to embrace causes that fulfil its vision of a healthier sustainable world. This contribution, increased the total raised for the benefit of Cancer Research UK to £41,128.80: a brilliant accomplishment for a very worthy cause.

Today, a cheque for £41,128.80 was presented to Cally Cardines, the local fundraising manager for Cancer Research UK by Jane Neville, the daughter of Betty Lawes. Jane remarked:

The Betty Lawes Foundation is delighted to match-fund the donations of riders and everyone who supported The Great Volac Milk Ride and is very pleased to make such a significant contribution to Cancer Research UK, a charity we hold dear. It is a great reflection of all the hard work, commitment (and pedalling power!) of many staff and   customers, particularly those based in Ireland. We look forward to supporting the next ride, which will be a special tenth anniversary event!

Cally gratefully received the cheque, thanking Volac and all involved:

On behalf of Cancer Research UK, I would like to say a huge thank you to Volac International Ltd. who have raised a fantastic amount of money for the charity! The distance travelled and money raised by employees of the company was amazing! The amount donated by Volac can help fund a microscope that’s powerful enough to see the inner workings of cells at nano-dimensions and small enough to fit on the scientists’ bench top. Such a piece of equipment is vital for the work carried out and our research and science simply would not be possible without amazing donations like this, so thank you.

VOLAC4From L-R are pictured: Jane Neville (The Betty Lawes Foundation), Cally Cardines (Cancer Research UK), David Neville – Managing Director – Animal Nutrition (Volac), and  Jackie Bradley- Regional Product Manager – Animal Nutrition (Volac).


Ben Holt (Sales Ledger & Customer Care Coordinator), an avid cyclist and an enthusiastic participant, ably summarised his experience of the event as:

“Stunning scenery and picture-postcard sea views made up the long days in the saddle. Although the weather threw all she had at us, regular feed stations (courtesy of our customers) allowed a moments pause to take in all the we were achieving. Great humour, team work, Irish Stout and Clonakilty Black Pudding made every day and enjoyable experience and one that I won’t forget in a hurry!”

(Ben is pictured at the presentation with his bike, a commemorative mug and bespoke event jersey)

Making the most of heifer growth rates

Feed conversion efficiency (FCE) is optimum in young animals – that’s a fact.


Heifer replacement FCE is highest in the first eight weeks of life after which it rapidly tails off – check out the graph.

In the first two weeks, 100g of feed will give approximately 50 – 60g of growth, after which it dramatically falls during the first 12 months of life, by when 100g feed will only give approximately 9g of growth.

Heifer feed efficiency

Heifer growth rates

* (Average daily gain) / (dry matter intake) x100

Source: IRTA

Feeding for growth has also proved to be cost effective according to research findings from the Institute of Research and Technology in Agrifood (IRTA). To achieve average age at first calving at 23 months and a body weight of 650kg, feeding a total six litres of milk per day to weaning at two months resulted in the lowest total rearing feed costs.

The data in the following table confirms that heifers fed four litres during the same period had some catching up to do later on when FCE is lower. In other words it is cheaper to put weight on heifers earlier.

Milk volume fed and the impact on total heifer rearing costs
(calving 23 months, 650kg body weight)

ffg graph

 Three reasons why FCE is the highest in early life

1. Milk is more digestible and nutritious than concentrate to a young calf

2. Calves fed concentrate utilise the ME that they consume less efficiently than the energy derived from milk or calf milk replacer. This is because at least some of the carbohydrate and protein in starter feed must be fermented in the rumen prior to being digested by the calf. As rumen activity increases, the amount of heat produced by the animal also increases which can be considered a loss as it cannot be utilised by the animal

3. Before puberty, growth is mainly bone and muscle, after which heifers gain more fat relative to bone and muscle, consequently they are less feed efficient.

FCE is not the only high point during pre weaning.

a. This phase is extremely important for the development of stomach, organ and mammary cells which together with metabolic programming are set on particular trajectories during this period of the calf’s life.

b. Improved early nutrition and growth rates are also correlated with increased plasma IGF-1, a hormone associated with higher growth rates which help to support increased disease resistance, improved immune response and in turn, reduced mortality.

Finally, two external factors determine FCE

Feed: ingredients can impact, as does quantity; refer back to the above table.
Environment: environmental stress can have an adverse impact on FCE.

To find out more download our Farmers Guide to Feed Conversion Efficiency.

Weaning – a guide


Weaning is the point when calves transfer from a liquid to solid diet. Weaning can be carried out successfully only when the rumen has developed sufficiently to support the fermentation and digestion of solid feed.

Here’s four factors for successful weaning from any rearing system

  • Fresh water available at all times – to encourage rumen development.
  • High quality starter feed available but offered in small quantities fresh each day.
  • Access to long fibre, for example straw in racks to encourage solid feed intake.
  • Eating minimum 1kg of solid feed daily for three consecutive days.

Rumen development can be influenced by diet

  1. Irrespective of your type of rearing system, easy access to fresh water and calf starter from the beginning of the rearing period will aid earlier rumen development.
  2. Introducing ad lib, clean straw – preferably barley will encourage a healthy well developed rumen.

When to wean

Rather than agreeing a fixed time, weaning is best done when the calf is consuming a minimum daily target of 1kg of solid feed for three consecutive days. Some calves achieve this at around five weeks, whilst others will take almost eight weeks. Remember that your calf naturally consumes milk for at least this length of time. A minimum target of doubling the calf’s birthweight should be achieved before weaning.

You can adopt one of two weaning strategies:

Abrupt – immediate switching from liquid to solid diet

This method can lead to significant growth setbacks if the calf’s rumen has not developed sufficiently to digest and utilise solid feed efficiently at this stage. The result is that the nutrient uptake from the solid feed cannot completely replace the nutrients previously supplied by milk.

Remember, if a calf is consuming 1kg/day of solid feed and four litres of milk at 12.5% concentration one day before weaning, it needs to consume almost 2kg/day solid feed the day after weaning to replace the energy previously supplied by the milk.

Abrupt Weaning_v2 TW

Step – gradual reduction of liquid milk over a period of time

An alternative weaning strategy designed to minimise the potential set back at weaning. Trial findings at Writtle College concluded that by stepping down the amount of milk fed and number of milk feeds per day over the last two weeks, the solid feed intake was increased and the efficiency of gain and economic performance was improved. These trends are linked to improved rumen development at weaning, resulting in a smoother transition onto solid feed without a growth check during this period.

Step Weaning_v1 TW

The following is an ideal step weaning system to consider

Twice daily feeding rates (125g per litre)
Age am pm
0 to 3 days Colostrum Colostrum
4 to 7 days 2.0 litres 2.0 litres
8 days to start of weaning 2.5 litres 2.5 litres
Weaning period (7 days) 2.5 litres 0

Minimise stress

Stress can influence the calf’s immune system; step up stress and it can increase the animal’s susceptibility to disease. Avoiding too many lifestyle changes at one time will help your calves to cope more readily with weaning stress. For optimal performance, try not to alter accommodation, solid and liquid feed, water and social group all at the same time.

Measure for success

Do you want TO increase herd yield?

If your heifers calve at 23 to 25 months then they will go on to yield more over their first five years of life than older calving animals simply because they achieve more lactations per unit of time, and have higher survival rates according to a Royal Veterinary College study of 500 animals.


To calve at 24 months, heifers must be in calf by 15 months. Since maiden heifers require on average 1.4 services per conception, first breeding must start at 13 to 14 months.

FFG-Nutrition-AFC 24 months benefitsActions to take:

1. Set growth rate targets: ensure rapid growth in early life – they will never catch up. Aim for up to 0.85kg per day during the first three months of life, and thereafter 0.7kg per day up to first breeding when they must be 55% to 60% of mature body weight.

2. Measure calf growth: if you don’t, you can’t monitor. Measure heifers at least twice during the rearing period: at birth, when it’s relatively easy to put a new born calf on a weigh scale, at weaning and again at a time when animals are being handled, for example vaccination or worming. Use weigh scales or a weigh band.

Find out more in our Farmers Guide – Growth Measuring Tools.

3. Milk: feeding sufficient energy and protein to support target growth rates is essential. Do you know how much milk powder your calves receive each day? For 0.6kg per day target growth rate, calves should be fed at least five litres of a 12.5% solution of milk replacer, that’s 125g of powder made up to a litre, providing the calf with 625g milk powder per day (125g x five litres = 625g).

If you target higher growth rates of 0.8kg to 0.9kg per day, feed up to 900g of milk powder per day in two or preferably more feeds, for example feed six litres of milk mixed at a concentration of 150g of powder per litre.

4. Weaning management: calves must be provided with fresh palatable dry starter feed from day three, plus high quality straw, to ensure good rumen development prior to weaning. A calf should be eating 1kg to 1.5kg a day of concentrate and doubling its birthweight at weaning. Adopting a gradual weaning protocol by stepping down the amount of milk fed and number of milk feeds per day over the last three weeks will increase solid feed intake. This will result in a smoother transition onto solid feed reducing the risk of a growth check during this period.

5. Water: clean fresh water is essential from day three, even during the milk feeding period; milk is a feed not a drink.

Find out more about how to set a growth rate for your heifers and how to achieve 24 months AFC in our Farmers Guide – Growth Rate Targets and Farmers Guide – Age at First Calving.


Milk Feeding for calves

Defining Mixing rates IN ORDER to meet CALF growth targets and rumen development



Have you have set your heifers’ target age and weight at first calving?

Take a calf with a 40kg birth weight, if your target age at first calving is 24 months with an accompanying 560kg body weight, then she will have to gain 320kg over 395 days to ensure she hits optimum breeding weight at 13 months. That means she must achieve an average daily liveweight gain (DLG) of 0.8kg throughout the pre-service rearing period.

Simple? Straight forward? To support this level of growth, then you need to make sure that you are providing your heifer calves with sufficient nutrition, both energy and protein. Also remember that during the milk feeding phase the calf’s feed conversion efficiency is at its highest.

One of our latest trials focused on feeding calf milk replacer to Holstein heifers at a rate of 900g per day. These heifers initially weighed 38kg and achieved a DLG of 0.78kg to 11 weeks – that’s around the level of growth required to reach the target we set above.

Defining mixing rates

To feed 900g of milk replacer per calf per day it’s important to check and review mixing rates to ensure that the milk is fed at the correct volume and concentration. For example you can either mix

• six litres per day at 150g per litre OR
• seven litres at 125g per litre

To find out more about various mixing rate levels please download our Calf Products Guide. 

If you are targeting high growth rates, then this will also increase your heifers’ energy requirements.  Energy intakes can be improved in various ways but increasing the milk replacer’s oil content from 16% to 20% has a negligible effect compared with simply feeding more of the same. Check out the various combinations in the following table.

Daily energy intake and effect of feeding a low vs high oil milk replacer, or different volumes or concentrations
Energy supplied/calf/day (MJ) 16% oil,    22% protein 20% oil,     22% protein
4 litres – 12.5% 7.5 7.8
4 litres – 15% 11.2 11.7
5 litres – 12.5% 11.7 12.2

Remember your heifers have a large ability to grow during the milk feeding stage. Review their quantity of feed, as well as the quality.


Six steps to correct mixing

FFG-Nutrition - How to mix milk

1. Accurately weigh the milk powder on scales
2. Use 125g of powder to 875ml water to make up one litre of mixed milk with a 12.5% solids concentration; using a full litre of water will lead to a weaker (11.1%) milk concentration
3. Take half the water (below 45°C) and add all the powder
4. Whisk until smooth
5. Add the rest of the water and whisk again
6. Check temperature (between 37-39°C) and feed

Download our Farmers Guide to Mixing Milk.


Rodney Magowan reports from a farm where only the best are bred.

The Holstein UK 2018 number one genomic PLI heifer Prehen Perseus with owner Stuart Smith flanked by Thomas Taylor, left, from Taylors of Fyfin, and Alistair Sampson, Volac NI. Only the best calf milk powder, Heiferlac will do for the nation's number one!

The Holstein UK 2018 number one genomic PLI heifer Prehen Perseus with owner Stuart Smith flanked by Thomas Taylor, left, from Taylors of Fyfin, and Alistair Sampson, Volac NI. Only the best calf milk powder, Heiferlac will do for the nation’s number one!

The Prehen Holstein Herd  of Stuart Smith and family, who farm on the outskirts of Londonderry, is again in the animal breeding headlines having produced the breed’s top genomic PLI heifer in the entire UK, according to Holstein UK’s PLI genomic tested heifers list.

High achieving Frouke cow family

Prehen Perseus Froukje with a GPLI of £754 is the latest member of the high achieving Frouke cow family on the farm at Prehen to come tops. Her grand dam was also UK number one GPLI cow last year. and her great grand dam, imported from the Netherlands as an embryo, has had a major impact on the Prehen Herd. Not least by producing two number one GPLI cows and the well known Prehen Omen, who has been number one UK bred Top Daughter Proven PLI bull for this last three years.

The Prehen Holstein Herd  has also bred the current number four UK bred top proven bull Prehen Frankel and the number one UK bred top genomic bull available, Prehen Lancaster, who is also the number eight worldwide PLI bull available.

Another Prehen heifer, now aged 15 months, is also current number two in the Holstein UK rankings having been top of the list until the current  number one calf came along.

Maximising the performance of world class Holsteins with volac heiferlac

The Smith family have been producing milk and quality stock at Prehen on the south eastern outskirts of Londonderry for three generations.  Today Stuart Smith and wife Monica, along with his parents Robert and Beryl, milk 170 cows, though the sale of Holstein genetics is as important an income stream as the supply of milk to farmer owned Aurivo Co-operative Society Ltd.

To maximise the performance of world class Holsteins clearly high standards of husbandry and nutrition are essential.  For Stuart that means rearing heifers on Volac Heiferlac calf milk powder from long term suppliers Taylors of Fyfin.

Asked why Heiferlac was used this past three years Stuart gave a simple answer.

“We looked at the label of contents and saw the figures you need to rear the modern dairy heifer. 26% protein and 16% oil with 7% ash. Nutrition over the first few weeks has a lifelong impact on the performance of a Holstein. Heiferlac helps deliver that early frame growth essential to reach target weights at bulling and beyond.”

Introducing Heiferlac after cow colostrum

Monica takes care of calf rearing for the first two weeks after which Stuart’s father Robert
takes over. Cow colostrum is fed for that vital first four to five days before Heiferlac is introduced and easily mixed at 150g of milk replacer per litre,  The equivalent of 1.5 pounds of powder in every gallon of mixed milk. That is 15% solids.





Find out more about Volac Heiferlac and get details of your local stockist.




Prehen calves are reared in hutches and clearly thrive on this milk powder with very high levels of dairy protein, lactose and a specially selected blend of vegetable oil ideal for the modern dairy heifer.

Maximising animal performance

Aside from Frouke other key cow families at Prehen include Massias and Lady with sales of bulls into AI stations as far afield as Germany making Prehen one of the best known names in the breed.

Closer to home over 30 bulls a year are sold at Holstein NI sales or in the yard often to repeat customers .Around 30 calved heifers are also sold each year.

 “That Heiferlac is doing an excellent job is clear to all when comparing the genetic potential of our stock with their actual performance. A well reared heifer is the foundation of any dairy enterprise and feeding quality milk powder from Volac is sound business sense,” Stuart affirmed.

High standards of husbandry and nutrition are essential to maximise the performance of your animals. The Feed for Growth Programme offers practical advice, support, resources and tools to help grow better cows. visit our resources area today.


Cold weather – are your calves at risk?



Young calves are very susceptible to low temperatures. They are on highly digestible feed and are not yet ruminating so less heat is generated by digestion.

During their first week of life and when temperatures plummet to less than 15°C, they’ll start using energy from feed to keep warm. High risk calves – those with a difficult birth and twins, will feel cold at higher temperatures.

By their fourth week, they’ll be more robust and won’t feel the cold until about 0°C. However, high moisture levels and draughts will dramatically increase their susceptibility to cold stress. Draughts of just 5mph will make calves feel 8-10°C colder.


Cold stress and its impact

  • Energy is diverted from growth to maintaining body temperature
  • Growth rates will fall and calves will become more susceptible to disease

How to prevent COLD STRESS

Have a plan for when cold stress is likely to happen, that’s when the ambient temperature drops below 15°C, or at a higher temperature for high-risk calves.

1. CALF Feeding

  • Make sure every calf receives adequate quality colostrum
  • Step up energy intake; this can be done by increasing the amount of milk offered per day, see table 1. Increasing the oil content of the milk replacer from 16% to 20% has a negligible effect on daily energy intake

Table 1: Increase in energy supplied by increasing calf milk powder oil content or feed rate


  • Increase the level of milk solids by 100g per day for every 10°C temperature drop below 20°C to maintain growth rates. See figure 1.

Fig 1: Additional calf milk replacer required to maintain growth rates in cold weather, for a calf aged 0 to three weeks or older than three weeks of age:


2. General housing considerations

  • Reduce cold drafts whilst maintaining adequate ventilation. Provide effective barriers to drafts at calf-level and places for the calves to shelter – plastic and timber are better insulating materials than concrete and steel
  • Put in place a system to drain moisture
  • Ensure bedding is kept clean and dry and provide plenty of deep straw bedding; it provides them with a great deal of insulation and reduces body heat loss
  • Keep bedding dry and clean – much of the insulation value of bedding is lost when it is wet

3. Specific intervention measures

  • Provide calf jackets
  • Provide an external heat source close to calves

Finally, calves born on very cold days take longer to stand and suckle so they may not receive enough colostrum to ensure adequate transfer of immunity. Make sure they each receive a minimum three litres or six pints within three hours of birth – use a teated bottle or stomach tube.