New born calves – meeting their nutrient requirements

Are you facing thE Dilemma of feeding whole milk or Calf milk Replacer?


Whichever you decide, remember the calf’s physiology dictates that for the first three weeks of life, she will be almost entirely dependent on liquid milk feed to supply the nutrients she needs to support health and growth.

Let’s take a look at pros and cons of both Whole Milk and Calf Milk Replacers.

1. Whole milk

The pros

  • Contains a high level of energy – 30% to 32% fat which is highly digestible
  • Provides a high level of protein (amino acids), 26% – 27% protein

The cons

  • Can transmit bacteria which infect the calf, including Johne’s, Salmonella, E.Coli
  • Can vary in nature which can lead to calf performance / health issues
  • Can result in delayed intake of solid feed, which can delay the age of successful weaning or result in post-weaning growth checks


2. High quality calf milk replacers

The pros

  • The proportion of energy supplied by the fat and lactose combined is similar to whole milk, despite the fact replacers contain 16% to 20% fat
  • Contain a blend of fat sources which are designed to be well digested
  • Lower fat, higher lactose – stimulates earlier intake of solid feed which encourages earlier rumen development both before and after weaning
  • Formulated to provide a consistent supply of energy, protein, vitamins and trace elements to meet requirements
  • Biosecurity – made using pasteurised milk
  • Convenient and easy to use, and always available

The cons

  • Have to be purchased

Calves have a requirement for protein, a minimum of 20% in the diet, but they also require specific amino acids – the building blocks of protein. The total quantity and balance of amino acids, not crude protein %, is key to muscle development and calf growth, but only the protein % is declared on the product label so it is impossible to judge likely animal performance from reading the label alone.

Five ‘must haves’ when purchasing a milk replacer

  • Minimum of 20% protein declared
  • Maximum of 9% ash declared
  • Minimum 0.8% calcium
  • A trusted supplier
  • Previous calf performance and calf bloom give the best guarantee for the milk replacer’s quality

If you decide to use a Calf Milk Replacer you must ensure the milk is mixed correctly.

Visit our website for the latest information and a range of downloadable resources, including our Farmers Guide to Mixing Milk to ensure you make the most out of your investment if you decide to use a Calf Milk Replacer.