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Calf Basics on Nutrition

Calf nutrition and feeding

If you ever heard one of my presentations, I am a firm believer in the 6C’s of Calf Raising. I stand firm on these fundamentals.

Obviously, we are only touching on the nutrition portion of the 6C’s in this month’s blog. After the first few feedings of Colostrum, we start to focus on our calves milk diet. Whether you feed whole milk; pasteurized or raw, or milk replacer, feeding the appropriate amount is important.

So where do you start, basic rule of thumb is feeding based on the average body weight (bw) of the calf:

Check for quality ingredients on the milk replacer tag.  Follow directions on the bag for mixing (can be specific to the type of milk replacer).  Weigh both powder and water and use a refractometer to check total solids % in milk or milk replaced and adjust accordingly.

  • BRIX % +2 = total solids % for whole milk 
  • Check with nutritionist for the correct adjustment for your specific variety of milk replacer as they can differ.

Cornell has a nice calculation that shows how to come up with your requirements:

calculating percent solids

Once you have figured out your liquid recipe for your calves, be consistent, weigh your volume of powder if you are mixing milk replacer.  Check your solid levels either if you are feeding whole milk or milk replacer, numbers do not lie!  Temperature of your solution can cause other issues, try to be as close to their body temperature as possible.  

In the winter if you are in a cold environment, adjust your solution to reflect cold pails or time it takes you to feed your milk solution.  The other factor is be consistent on the time of the feeding.  If you are feeding twice a day, try to maintain a 12 hour interval, if you are feeding three times a day, maximize the 8 hour rule.  

You wouldn’t milk your cows on a random milking schedule so keep that in the back of your mind when you are feeding your calves.

You can always reach out to one of us at Calf Star to help you with your feeding methods.  Enjoy the next month of summer as the next few months can change drastically.  Less flies I hope!


Minnie Ward


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