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Thread: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

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    Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    We typically feed all our replacement heifer calves on powdered milk from about day 2-3 until weaning at around 8 weeks. We try to get 2.5-3 litres of the Dam's colostrum into the calf ASAP via the stomach tube (the last few have been done just after calving). Then they get Mum's milk via a teat bucket until it's OK to go to the bulk tank then it's onto powder at 4 litres per day (two 2 litre feeds - am & pm). At around 1 week old we move them from individual crates to group pens where they're fed the same rate via a group teat bucket (green peach teat type). From around 4-5 weeks they then start to drink out of a trough, which I find encourages better heifer nut consumption (They're offered it from day 1!) and roughage intake.
    Weaning starts at about week 6 where the concentration is gradually weakened and volume slightly increased until at week 8 (roughly!) they're only getting coloured water and should be eating 2kg/head/day of nuts.

    Is anyone else doing it differently? I was reading a piece in this weeks IFJ which suggests feeding 6 litres of milk per day (two 3 litre feeds). Will this have a positive effect on the calf? Will it reduce age to 1st service? Will it help increase yield in 1st and consecutive lactations? Would it not lay down extra fat in the calf's gut?

    All experiences and opinions welcome!!

  2. #2

    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    There have been a few trials that I know of carried out in last few years looking at accelerated calf growth, with the result being that calves are weaned with bigger frames and this has been found to carry through into puberty earlier, service age decreased and calving down earlier and a bit extra milk in the first lactation.

    It works on the fact that feed conversion is 1:1 within the first 2-3 months of life, i.e. for every kilo of concentrate fed, they could potentially put on 1Kg of liveweight. So that means that it is worthwhile to get as much Milk powder VOLUME into your calf as possible in the early days. For example, 900grams of powder/calf/day (before they are eating much conc and roughage) - this fed over 6 litres per day (2 x 3litres) means 900g/6 = 150g of powder per litre.

    Theory would be here that the Calf would grow at 0.9Kg/day, rather than 0.75Kg/day on 6 litres at a regular feed rate of 125g/litre.

    You may not be able to get up to this level, however it is the best way to get extra growth early in the calf's life. Same idea as feeding extra powder per litre if the temperature drops, you're really just increasing the amount of energy the calf is fed at that young age.

    In theory - you would weigh the volume of calf concentrate they eat each day, and at the same time, decrease the volume/concentration of milk powder they get by the same amount for the following day, meaning that you could get the highest growth rates without making calves loose of their dung or overspending on feed/powder.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Would you consider storing the colostrum and feeding it to the calf for first 2 weeks of life for extra antibody protection? Or isn't that fashionable any more?

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    We feed 2x3l per day IF the calf can take it. In other words, use your own expertise to judge whether the calf has the capacity and the appetite for it. Big calves can usually take it at a couple of weeks, heifers' calves might take longer. If the calf presents itself at feed time with anything less than a 'suck your coat off' attitude, ease back.

    From a month, push them on hard plenty of meal and ad lib silage until six months. Then ease back to two kgs per day.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    6 litres a day shouldn't be an issue intakes wise, I'm pretty sure they can't actually digest the cake till they're 10 days old or so... ours stay on milk for at least 8 weeks more often getting weaned at 10 weeks, but not until they're munching the cake down at a rate of knots, then transition onto a cake+straw then blend+straw then blend+silage going onto a tmr at around 8 months no problems with size serving at 13-15 months

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilts` View Post
    6 litres a day shouldn't be an issue intakes wise, I'm pretty sure they can't actually digest the cake till they're 10 days old or so... ours stay on milk for at least 8 weeks more often getting weaned at 10 weeks, but not until they're munching the cake down at a rate of knots, then transition onto a cake+straw then blend+straw then blend+silage going onto a tmr at around 8 months no problems with size serving at 13-15 months
    Very similar to what we do, we feed 3 litres twice a day of BOCM Omega Gold mixed at 150g of powder to give a total of 900 g/d. Mine move to an ultra palatable blend prior to weaning. Have just scanned a couple of heifers PD+ to first service of sexed and they will calve down at 1 yr 8 and 1 yr 9. They are the first two reared on this regime.
    Last edited by Cowcrazy; 26-09-14 at 06:52 AM.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Cowcrazy View Post
    Very similar to what we do, we feed 3 litres twice a day of BOCM Omega Gold mixed at 150g of powder to give a total of 950 g/d. Mine move to an ultra palatable blend prior to weaning. Have just scanned a couple of heifers PD+ to first service of sexed and they will calve down at 1 yr 8 and 1 yr 9. They are the first two reared on this regime.
    The weight of milk powder is more important than volume of milk, we're feeding 175g / litre to jersey calves at 2 for smaller calves(700g/day), 2.5litres for larger/older calves(875g/day). we used to feed at 150g/litre then increase to 175g if it was frosty, but this seemed to give some the scours. They're now flying with no scours all winter. Weaning at 6 to 8 weeks depending on feed intakes.

    angus x jersey will easily take 3 litres/ feed at same feed rate which is over 1kg milk powder/day

    It might seem expensive but the feed conversion rates at this age are at their highest

    We may reduce to 150g/litre in the summer as calf should need less energy to keep warm.

    We have tried once a day feeding in the past, and I think it was a case of we got away with it in the summer, but the calves struggled in the winter.

    So from recent experiences I would say
    BE GENEROUS- don't under feed the calves
    BE CONSISTENT- feed at the same rate/temp/time
    BE FLEXIBLE- don't wean until they're eating enough

  8. #8

    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by goldtop View Post
    The weight of milk powder is more important than volume of milk, we're feeding 175g / litre to jersey calves at 2 for smaller calves(700g/day), 2.5litres for larger/older calves(875g/day). we used to feed at 150g/litre then increase to 175g if it was frosty, but this seemed to give some the scours. They're now flying with no scours all winter. Weaning at 6 to 8 weeks depending on feed intakes.

    angus x jersey will easily take 3 litres/ feed at same feed rate which is over 1kg milk powder/day

    It might seem expensive but the feed conversion rates at this age are at their highest

    We may reduce to 150g/litre in the summer as calf should need less energy to keep warm.

    We have tried once a day feeding in the past, and I think it was a case of we got away with it in the summer, but the calves struggled in the winter.

    So from recent experiences I would say
    BE GENEROUS- don't under feed the calves
    BE CONSISTENT- feed at the same rate/temp/time
    BE FLEXIBLE- don't wean until they're eating enough
    Bang on.
    Enough Concentrate as a guide should be 1Kg (2.25lb's) per calf over 3 consecutive days and are seen to be cudding

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    How many people feed a coccidiostat in the dry feed when on milk as standard as a preventative/growth promoter?

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Cowcrazy View Post
    How many people feed a coccidiostat in the dry feed when on milk as standard as a preventative/growth promoter?
    not used it, we rarely see it here.

    keeping your calf feeding equipment spotless is really important, as well as consistent temperature.

    we only leave the calves on teats for maybe 2-3 weeks depending, then onto group troughs (calves are group reared straight away 5 calves to a group max as that what fits our housing). With feeding in troughs it makes the job a hell of a lot quicker and means you don't have milk going cold, in the winter I do it between sides whilst milking. we do swap calves between groups depending on their size as some will bully others off.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Shields Kaizer View Post
    There have been a few trials that I know of carried out in last few years looking at accelerated calf growth, with the result being that calves are weaned with bigger frames and this has been found to carry through into puberty earlier, service age decreased and calving down earlier and a bit extra milk in the first lactation.

    It works on the fact that feed conversion is 1:1 within the first 2-3 months of life, i.e. for every kilo of concentrate fed, they could potentially put on 1Kg of liveweight. So that means that it is worthwhile to get as much Milk powder VOLUME into your calf as possible in the early days. For example, 900grams of powder/calf/day (before they are eating much conc and roughage) - this fed over 6 litres per day (2 x 3litres) means 900g/6 = 150g of powder per litre.

    Theory would be here that the Calf would grow at 0.9Kg/day, rather than 0.75Kg/day on 6 litres at a regular feed rate of 125g/litre.

    You may not be able to get up to this level, however it is the best way to get extra growth early in the calf's life. Same idea as feeding extra powder per litre if the temperature drops, you're really just increasing the amount of energy the calf is fed at that young age.

    In theory - you would weigh the volume of calf concentrate they eat each day, and at the same time, decrease the volume/concentration of milk powder they get by the same amount for the following day, meaning that you could get the highest growth rates without making calves loose of their dung or overspending on feed/powder.
    Have said similar for years. You won't get an animal to ever grow as fast as it will as a calf, hence the false economy of using cheap shit powder or trying to be stingy with it. Ditto the volume of blend/coarse mix or cake fed when it is beginning to disappear rapidly you know they are on to it in a big way, but as said they can't digest vegetable protein for toffee until they are a considerable age probably beyond the weaning stage if we are honest.

    Would not touch a milk powder unless it had a Volac, FrankWright or similar name on it.

    I see a variety of systems about, some robots, some group trough/nipple systems. Don't see those damn buckets any longer thank god.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    I think where people fall is the period from 8 weeks till around 5 months, getting the transition from feeding milk till on a good amount of cake/forage. We used to struggle after weaning because they used to go straight on to silage with 2kgs of cake. They couldn't handle the silage. Now they stay on barley straw and 3kgs of cake split twice a day, then they go on to a mix of grass silage, maize silage and a good amount of straw plus 2 kgs of cake (heifer reader from bocm). [IMG][/IMG]

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    [IMG][/IMG]

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Looking real good, any one using BOCM Omega Gold know the formulation as in % whey etc?

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Here, we feed calves with mother's colostrum/milk for 2-3 days, then feed heifer calves with pooled colostrum/milk from new calved (all cows are vaccinated precalving with Rotavec Corona & we don't have Johnnes) until they're 2 weeks old (2-3l twice a day). Milk from heifers is checked with colostrumeter & frozen cow colostrum fed if it's poor quality.
    First feed by bottle. Bucket feed asap. Only tube feed if necessary.
    Offered straw & coarse calf mix - helps develop rumen.
    Kept in single pens until 2 wks old (develop immunity) & then put in pens of 5.
    Still fed twice a day with pooled milk. Given straw & coarse calf mix to appetite & weaned after around 50 days & definitely cudding.
    Moved into pens of 10 around 10 weeks old, grouped according to size & age. Fed on haylage/straw & coarse mix/milled grains (gradually decreasing coarse mix).
    TMR around 18 months.


    Out of interest, how much per litre is calf powder milk?
    Never used it, so have no idea.
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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam_TM View Post
    Out of interest, how much per litre is calf powder milk?
    Never used it, so have no idea.
    It usually works out at between 20 - 30 pence per litre depending on quality and quantity used. I could be wrong - happens SOMETIMES!

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    A quality milk replacer will be about 25ppl minimum.

    Each calf should receive at least one bag (20kg) within the weaning period. Many of my customers are serious dairy farmers who are big on calf health etc and they would all feed more than this and won't use cheap powder at all. One is a serious showman who is constantly winning prizes at cattle shows, if you had any real specific questions about the job I can ask him if you like.

    The volume of milk replacer mixture is secondary to the weight of powder fed. I believe once a day is going out of fashion and technically isn't legally kosher if you read the fine print anyway.

    As above calves can't really cope with acidic silages early on, so feeding maize etc is a bit pointless. Good straw and quality calf meal etc.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Ballygreenan View Post
    We typically feed all our replacement heifer calves on powdered milk from about day 2-3 until weaning at around 8 weeks.
    All experiences and opinions welcome!!
    I thought you had went to weaning at 10 weeks?

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullyvernon View Post
    I thought you had went to weaning at 10 weeks?
    And you'd be right Tully, following on from the start of this thread and other bits and pieces of reading I had actully moved to weaning at 12 weeks, and also increasing the amount of powder fed so that calves were on full ration of powder (eqivalent to two bags per calf) up untill 8 weeks then scale back to nothing with just a once-a-day feed of coloured warm water in week 11, and the difference in calves was noticeable!

    Now with my latest set of arrivals we've switched powder to a skim milk product (supplied by your neighbour), and following the manufacturers guide for 'accelerated performance' I can see that we'll be able to bring the weaning age back to 10 weeks, the calves are flying and as has already been mentioned these first few weeks are critical, as the animal will never grow as quickly in the rest of its life!

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam_TM View Post
    Here, we feed calves with mother's colostrum/milk for 2-3 days, then feed heifer calves with pooled colostrum/milk from new calved (all cows are vaccinated precalving with Rotavec Corona & we don't have Johnnes) until they're 2 weeks old (2-3l twice a day). Milk from heifers is checked with colostrumeter & frozen cow colostrum fed if it's poor quality.
    First feed by bottle. Bucket feed asap. Only tube feed if necessary.
    Offered straw & coarse calf mix - helps develop rumen.
    Kept in single pens until 2 wks old (develop immunity) & then put in pens of 5.
    Still fed twice a day with pooled milk. Given straw & coarse calf mix to appetite & weaned after around 50 days & definitely cudding.
    Moved into pens of 10 around 10 weeks old, grouped according to size & age. Fed on haylage/straw & coarse mix/milled grains (gradually decreasing coarse mix).
    TMR around 18 months.


    Out of interest, how much per litre is calf powder milk?
    Never used it, so have no idea.
    how much meal/cake are you feeding at 10 weeks of age

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Ballygreenan View Post
    And you'd be right Tully, following on from the start of this thread and other bits and pieces of reading I had actully moved to weaning at 12 weeks, and also increasing the amount of powder fed so that calves were on full ration of powder (eqivalent to two bags per calf) up untill 8 weeks then scale back to nothing with just a once-a-day feed of coloured warm water in week 11, and the difference in calves was noticeable!

    Now with my latest set of arrivals we've switched powder to a skim milk product (supplied by your neighbour), and following the manufacturers guide for 'accelerated performance' I can see that we'll be able to bring the weaning age back to 10 weeks, the calves are flying and as has already been mentioned these first few weeks are critical, as the animal will never grow as quickly in the rest of its life!
    Just noticing the start date of the thread

    Thought you had went back to 8 since we last were chatting.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Wots the skim milk product?

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    You'll have to remind me, which is superior, the whey product or the skim product? I know both are superior to veg protein based products but damned if I can remember the way around.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Some swear by the skim. Others seem perfectly happy with the whey. Skim tends to more potent and leaves the calves with more bloom (e.g. If you are concerned about marketing calves, skim is really the only one, second of course to whole milk), but is also know to be a bit trickier to feed when you are building the young ones up. Whey is thought of as less likely to result in upsets and is a fair bit cheaper.

    I happen to use a scoop of each when I'm mixing!

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by Ballygreenan View Post
    following the manufacturers guide for 'accelerated performance' I can see that we'll be able to bring the weaning age back to 10 weeks, the calves are flying and as has already been mentioned these first few weeks are critical, as the animal will never grow as quickly in the rest of its life!
    That's the key - accelerated performance. Many of our Holsteins are weaned at 110kg at 6 weeks after ad lib warm milk powder from a machine, reduced access last week and they get cake from week 1, plus plenty of fresh straw and water from day 1; saw plenty of 3 week old calves cudding today. We use Volac Blossom which is whey based and even ad lib have minimal bloat and no scours. Have no problem rearing them to calve at 23 months, nearly all sexed semen and most are popping a calf out within a couple of hours. Of course the most important influences are adequate good quality colostrum and also good ventilation, nothing like a bout of pneumonia to check their growth. Some people seem to think you can rear a heifer on a single bag of powder. I don't care how much powder they get through, it repays dividends.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    I cannot rear calves without halocur.Washed and disinfected pens for years,colostrum as soon as they were born..sometimes when cow was still licking them..and they still scoured at day nine.Vet test showed crypto.Its a bugger.

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by causeway cowboy View Post
    Wots the skim milk product?
    Britmilk calf supreme http://www.britmilk.co.uk/content.asp?p=22

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Going off on a slight tangent, when are most folk disbudding their heifer calves and with what product? Typically I wait untill post weaning and untill there's a decent horn growth, then I use an electric hot-iron (with local anasthetic!) but I'm now wondering about using something like hornex paste at an earlier stage?? Opinions please

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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by zsnotdead View Post
    how much meal/cake are you feeding at 10 weeks of age
    At 10 wks, about 1.25kg per day - Varley's Roughtex calf blend.

    This sort of stuff
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    Re: Feeding Dairy Heifer calves

    Quote Originally Posted by DairyFarmer111 View Post
    Some swear by the skim. Others seem perfectly happy with the whey. Skim tends to more potent and leaves the calves with more bloom (e.g. If you are concerned about marketing calves, skim is really the only one, second of course to whole milk), but is also know to be a bit trickier to feed when you are building the young ones up. Whey is thought of as less likely to result in upsets and is a fair bit cheaper.

    I happen to use a scoop of each when I'm mixing!
    Interesing DF111! How long have you been practicing this theory and why? Is it trying to get the best of both worlds, hedging your bets, saving money or is there a more scientific answer behind your recipe?!! I've just moved off a whey product (Kalvostart) onto the Britmilk skim product so I'm intrigued.

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