Attention to detail – part 2

Unlocking potential in the milk drinking phase

This week we’re introducing four more fundamentals that will help you to unlock your heifer calves’ potential. Small management details like these can contribute towards their growth and the animals’ ability to hit required growth targets for 24 month calving.

Fact, if you increase your heifer calves’ daily liveweight gain from 500g to 800g in the milk drinking phase, then they’ll have the potential to increase yield by an average 450 litres in the first lactation*.

Drinking-Angle_v2-FB1. Drinking angle:

The strength of the oesophageal grove reflex is triggered by sucking, milk temperature and the position of the head. Consequently, calves need to drink from shoulder height to ensure neck extension, a weak groove reflex can cause milk to enter the rumen which can lead to problems such as bloat and scours. If you bucket feed, then raise the buckets to sit at least 30cm from the floor.

2. Consistency:

Whatever you do – from the time of feeding to volume, concentration and temperature of milk, dry feed and access to straw – be consistent. It’s vital to sustain intakes and growth.

Teat-Position-FB3. Maintaining and cleaning feeding equipment:

Check teats regularly – splits and wear and tear could lead to fast drinking and in turn, abomasal overflow and scour which could impact on growth. Check again to make sure the teats are set up right – the hole should be in a + position, not an x position, otherwise milk flow will be compromised.

4. Ambient temperature:

Your calves have a thermal neutral zone of 15°C to 20°C, below which they will need more energy for maintenance and keeping warm. If this energy is not supplied, then growth rates and immunity could be compromised. It won’t be long before temperatures start to fall; for every 10°C drop below the thermal neutral zone, milk solids should be increased by 100g/day. Jackets are useful to keep calves warm from birth to three weeks, whilst it makes for common sense to ensure they are bedded on clean, dry straw in a draught free environment.

Finally, measure and monitor: your heifer calves will need to gain 800g/day throughout the rearing period if they are to double their birth weight by weaning and go on to reach 85 – 90% of mature weight by calving at 23 to 25 months.

* Adapted from Soberon & Van Amburgh 2013

Attention to detail – unlocking potential in the milk drinking phase

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Did you know that if you increase your heifer calves’ daily liveweight gain from 500g to 800g in the milk drinking phase, then they’ll have the potential to increase yield by an average 450 litres in first lactation?*

Unlocking that potential is all about attention to management detail. Here are five fundamentals. 

1. Mixing: don’t get confused!
If you are following instructions to make up one litre of milk, then you need to add 125g of calf milk replacer powder (CMR) to 875ml of water equating to a 12.5% concentration. Adding 125g of the same CMR to one litre of water will lower the milk concentration to 11.1%. On a system feeding six litres per day, that would equate to 4.7kg less CMR over a 56 day period.

2. Scoop calibration: CMR is a natural product so bulk density can vary between batches.
Calibrate your CMR scoop between batches by measuring a level scoop and weighing it. Take a scoop holding 375g, but you think it holds 450g and you’re feeding at 900g per day, then you could be underfeeding by a significant 150g per day.

3. Scoop cleaning: do you regularly clean and dry your measuring scoop?
A scoop with a build-up of CMR could significantly impact on the amount you are actually feeding each day. For example, 5g of dirt or hard powder in a 150g scoop could mean you’re feeding 30g per day less than you thought when feeding daily 900g per day measured using a 150g scoop.

4. Mixing temperature: aim for 40°C.
Scalding temperatures will denature milk proteins and reduce the quality of milk solids fed.

5. Feeding temperature: aim for 37°C.
Milk should be fed between 37-39°C to stimulate a strong oesophageal groove reflex, which helps prevent milk entering the rumen. The spillage of milk into the rumen will increase the risk of scours or bloat which could result in poor growth rates. If you are feeding a long line of calves, ask yourself – is one at the end getting the same temperature milk as the one at the start? Think of ways around it, for example using a milk shuttle to keep the milk warm.

Inaccurate measuring over a prolonged period can impact pre-wean growth and your calves weaning date.

Next week we’ll investigate some more fundamentals.

Source: Adapted from Soberon and Van Amburgh, 2013

Whey protein in calf milk replacers

Why is the whey protein used in Volac Calf Milk Replacer different?

Whey proteins contain high levels of the immunoglobulins found naturally in milk and colostrum. Immunoglobulins are important to the health and growth of the young animal. The ultrafiltration process used by Volac concentrates these valuable ‘globular’ proteins, and the low temperature process ensures that they are not denatured – thus Volac whey protein retains a high level of these naturally occurring immunoglobulins.

Level of naturally occurring immunoglobulin’s found in different types of milk replacers:


Which sources of milk protein can be used in calf milk replacers?

Dairy ingredients are the main source of protein in milk replacers and these include both skim and whey proteins. The proteins which make up whole milk comprise both casein (skim) and whey.

Liquid whey is the valuable by-product of the cheese making process. The type of whey produced depends on the method of processing that is used – the main types include:

  • Whey Powder
  • Delactosed Whey
  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) / Whey Protein

The differences in these types of whey are in the amount of protein and lactose that they contain. For example, whey powder contains 12-14% protein, and whey protein concentrate contains 35-80% protein. Thus whey powder in a milk replacer will not contribute the same level of protein as whey protein concentrate or whey protein.

Volac calf milk replacer is made using whey protein sourced from British cheese manufacturers.

What does the bag label tell you?

It is very difficult to determine the quality of a product and the significance this will have on the young animal, from quickly reading the bag label. But analysing the bag label in detail can give an indication as to the type of product.


Analytical Constituents:

Protein and fat levels are both important to consider when choosing a milk replacer. Protein provides essential amino acids which are essential for growth; the protein percent stated gives the overall total protein in the diet. But remember, this does not give an indication of the protein quality or amino acid levels or the percentage from dairy and vegetable sources – all of which are essential to the young animal.

The oils and fats percentage stated indicates the percentage of energy giving ingredients; this will normally include a number of vegetable oils, but will not indicate the percentage inclusion of each type, and the quality and digestibility of the oils included.

Only by reading the list of ingredients can you start to get an idea as to the level and type of protein and fat included in the milk replacer.

List of Ingredients / Composition:

Milk replacers can contain a variety of ingredients, each of which can be of a varying quality resulting in variable digestibility to the young animal. It is essential to feed the young animal a highly digestible product.

The ingredients on a bag label should be listed in descending order based on the inclusion level in the formulation. Ingredients listed towards the end of the list are thus likely to be included at a very low level. Look out for ingredients displayed prominently on the bag but appear towards the end of the ingredients list – as these will comprise very little of the overall formulation.

Supporting British farmers

With a manufacturing plant in west Wales using liquid whey sourced from British cheese makers, Volac are passionate about supporting British dairy farmers.


Delivering farmers’ milk replacer needs

Volac is the largest and longest established UK producer of calf milk replacer, making us ideally placed to meet the needs of today’s progressive dairy farmers.

Unique manufacturing techniques

“The main manufacturing site is located at Felinfach and since acquiring this site in 1989, Volac has continued to invest in its facilities at a rate of £1m per year. This has ensured that it continues to produce top quality milk-based feeds,” says Volac’s David Neville, Director of Animal Nutrition.

“The plant at Felinfach includes ultrafiltration and microfiltration equipment which is unique in the animal feed industry and helps ensure our products are of the highest quality when they leave the factory.”

“As a result of business expansion, Volac has also invested in several smaller processing and ultrafiltration plants across the UK, to concentrate protein prior to delivery to Felinfach. This helps reduce the volume of product being transported, helping the company to reduce its carbon footprint.”

Wide range of products

Volac provides a varied range of products across the large animal sector, including milk replacers for calves, lambs and piglets. We understand the needs and requirements of farmers and have diversified our product range to include computerised milk feeders and milk powders designed specifically for use in these machines.

Blossom and Enerlac rangesBlossom_Easymix_20kg 254x381@300dpi CMYK 021014 co

At the centre of the product range is the well-known Blossom range of milk powders, including both ‘Easymix’ and ‘Freeflow’ products, with Easymix intended for once or twice a day feeding and Freeflow developed for use in automated feeders.

Blossom is formulated to allow calves to achieve the growth rates needed for high performance dairy and beef calves. Alongside Blossom, Volac also produced Enerlac which is a milk replacer developed specifically for modern beef units as well as more traditional dairy herds.

Enerlac is available as either an instant powder for once or twice a day feeding or in Freeflow specification for use in automatic feeders. It is designed as a high energy feed, including high levels of both lactose and oil, resulting in well grown, good looking calves.

Basic CMYKColostrum alternative

In addition to the products above, Volac also produces one of the most popular and successful calf colostrums alternatives in the form of Volostrum – made purely with British milk.

This product is intended for use when an adequate supply of maternal colostrum is unavailable and trials have shown that calves fed Volostrum in place of maternal colostrum perform at least as well and in some cases better than those suckling their dams.

Volac remains committed to the UK livestock industry and the profitability of dairy farming across Europe, demonstrated through our continued innovation and investment.