Attention to detail: Part 1

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 milk day period.

Download our Farmers Guide to Mixing Milk here.

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 aiming to feed 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

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