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Caring for Calves
Consistency – The Key to Success!
  Brittany Todd, Young Animal Specialist, Grober Nutrition
The most successful calf managers are always thinking about -The 5 Cs of successful calf management: Colostrum, Calories, Cleanliness, Comfort and Consistency.
This article will focus specifically on consistency when feeding.
Can milk replacer be inconsistent? If mixed improperly and guesstimated, yes!
There are several reasons why using standard farm ‘equipment’ to mix milk replacer can cause inconsistencies. In the case of using a plastic cup for measuring powder, the interpretation of level-full may be different from one feeder to another, or even from one feeding to the next, especially when the process is repetitive, and the mix contains scoop after scoop. Also, the density of the milk replacer can vary between lot numbers, leading to variation of powder weight in each cup. Density of ingredients used to produce milk replacers is the primary cause of variations in end-density of the milk replacer, resulting from variations in the drying process of dairy and fat ingredients. The drying process affects particle sizes, thus impacting the way the final mixture of powders ‘fits’ into the measuring scoop used.
Not only is consistency in powder and water important but we also need to consider the consistency of water temperature when mixing. A thermometer should always be used to verify the correct water temperature when mixing, and the end feeding temperature of the milk replacer solution. Using warm water to mix milk replacer is important to ensure the fats and oils in the milk replacer melt and form a proper emulsion. Once these components have melted, they will interact with the proteins which help emulsify and dissolve the fat into the solution. Mixing with too low of a water temperature will often lead to reduced solubility, may poorly affect ingredient digestibility and will not deliver the same nutrition to each calf being fed in the batch.
Similarly, if the water temperature is too hot, we can have undesirable effects on the consistency and therefore digestibility of our milk replacer. Excessively high mix temperatures can cause the proteins to migrate away from the fat droplets; the fat droplets will then join together and separate from the rest of the solution. It is critical to pay attention to your mixing temperatures to ensure proper digestion.
In a Penn State University experiment, students showed that by using standard farm ‘equipment’ to mix milk replacer (i.e. a plastic cup for measuring powder, a bottle for measuring water, and a feeder’s finger to assess temperature), results of total solids and temperature were quite variable. Of 41 batches mixed, only 17 achieved a final total solids percentage within the goal range of 10-15%. Only two calves received a final solution with total solids of 13%, which is the tag recommendation (Heinrichs, 2014). In this case, that is less than a 5% accuracy rate, which means 95% of calves are not getting enough, or are getting too much.
Why is consistency in mixing quantities important? Large changes in consistency of milk can lead to unwillingness of calves to drink or scours in calves that do drink. Scours or disease during the pre-weaning period can affect average daily gain (ADG) by nutrient loss from the diet via diarrhea, diversion of energy to the immune system (away from growth), dehydration, and suppressed appetite/feed intake (Donovan et al., 1998).
Not only do we need milk replacer to be mixed consistently but, we need it to be fed consistently. It is common practice for large mixes to be made and poured into bottles,
but if we are not monitoring the temperature and ensuring proper mixing, this can also affect the consistency of the feed being fed to the calves. It is important to remember that over time, milk will separate, with the fats rising to the top of the solution. If using an ad-lib (non-machine) feeder, consider the use of an agitator to ensure consistent feeding across all calves.
We need to also remember that bacteria will start to grow and continue to replicate as the solution sits longer, especially in warmer climates. Therefore, milk that is intended to sit out and not be consumed immediately, should be fully acidified to prevent bacterial growth.
To achieve more consistent feeding, we must use a scale and a thermometer.
References available upon request.
Calves need
consistency that comes from using a scale and thermometer to blend milk replacer precisely for best outcomes.
 Precision is the key to milk replacer consistency, so a scale and thermometer are essential. Target 15% total solids to the calf, for a higher plane of nutrition and higher rates of gain.
 ;Quality ingredients
;Hands-on research
;On-farm support
Milk replacer, colostrum & supplements for calves
     Want more? Talk to your DairyCrop team today:
Gerry DeGroot 604.819.4139 Jelle Vogels 604.997.0059 Evan Davidson 604.991.6708 | 1.800.265.7863 |

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