Tips on feeding whole or surplus milk

Feeding surplus or whole milk is an option for many dairy farms and, if managed well, can produce good results. Whole milk is typically 32% fat, 26% protein and 36% lactose in the dry  matter, so it could be considered rich in fat, protein and energy compared with traditional calf milk replacers.

Whole milk can be used as a calf feed in situations where there is a surplus on the farm; e.g. over-quota milk. Volac has investigated the tactical use of whole milk and has put together a number of feeding recommendations, based on trials, which will allow the use of whole milk without encouraging the associated problems of calf scour and low solid feed intake.

Strategic use of whole milk

  • Ensure that all calves receive adequate colostrum (see Colostrum Management Tips)
  • Introduce calves to twice a day feeding of calf milk replacer. The trials were conducted using Volac Blossom, which enjoys a considerable reputation amongst UK calf rearers, (SAC, 1995). The cost of mixed calf milk replacer @ approx 15p/litre compares favourably against feeding whole milk that could otherwise be sold.
  • Feed the above regime for 4 weeks, where typical consumption will be 13kg of milk replacer. Then allow calves ad-lib access to cold whole milk or waste milk, and stop feeding calf milk replacer.
  • Wean calves abruptly after a further 3 weeks.

Calves on this feeding regime grew well and were heavier at 20 weeks than those fed on restricted calf milk replacer. There were no reports of ill-health, and each calf consumed 11 litres of milk a day from weeks 5-7, equivalent to 3.8% of quota for a 6000 litre cow.

calf milk replacer

Whole milk – performance

Despite the higher energy and protein levels in whole milk, a recent study at Harper Adams (O’Neill, 2000) demonstrated that when fed at the same volume and solids concentrations, there was no significant difference in calf performance to weaning and 11 weeks of age when reared on whole milk or calf milk replacer.

Whole Milk Calf Milk Replacer (Volac)
Birth weight 41.51 42.03
11 week weight 92.30 95.30
Liveweight gain 0-5 weeks (kg) 16.06 19.43
Liveweight gain 5-11 weeks (kg) 34.73 35.14
DLWG 0-11 weeks (kg) 0.683 0.726

Whole milk feeding has been associated with health problems on farm – possibly due to the variable nature of the milk (waste milk and colostrum in varying proportions, temperatures and quantities on a daily basis). A survey report by NADIS in 1996 noted that a common factor on farms where calves were suffering pathogenic scour was the use of whole milk rather than calf milk replacer. This is most likely due to the variable nature of whole milk and the inconsistent manner in which it is fed.

Our Calf Management Guide contains an in-depth look at feeding whole or surplus milk. For a free copy, or advice on improving the lifetime performance of your calves, please phone us free on 0800 919808.

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