Fortifying milk for calves: why and how

Fortifying milk for calves

Research from New Zealand and around the world has shown a strong positive relationship between average daily gain of dairy heifers prepuberty and subsequent lifetime milk production.

There is also clear evidence that preweaning growth rates of heifers are key to optimal mammary tissue development.

Feeding higher levels of a well-balanced diet to young heifers not only results in higher growth rates, but also encourages greater development of those cells in the udder responsible for milk production.

This means that these heifers not only reach puberty at a younger age, but have greater capacity to produce milk, both in the first lactation and throughout their entire life.

Many dairy heifer rearers in New Zealand have access to transition milk and this is a valuable source of nutrients for young calves.

Feeding calves ad lib is one way to support good early nutrient intakes which increases growth rates and lifetime productivity. But what if you don’t feed ad lib or you have limited transition milk and want to increase early growth rates?

One option is to consider adding a milk powder to the milk you have available – a process known as fortification – increasing the concentration of solids in the milk from the typical 12.5% up to as much as 20%. This is not the same as increasing the volume of milk offered by mixing reconstituted milk replacer with milk.

There are several different options for fortification, choose a method which is going to work well in your system and with the specific milk replacer you are using.

A simple option, which works well with Sprayfo CMR – a powder that mixes easily - is to add the milk replacer directly to milk.

For example:

  • Adding 125g of milk replacer to 4L of milk (or 6.25kg of milk replacer to 200L of milk) is the same as feeding just over 1L more milk to your calves.
  • Adding 250g of milk replacer to 4L of milk (or 12.5kg of milk replacer to 200L of milk) is the same as feeding an additional 2L of milk but without the extra volume.

If you are using cold milk, make sure that you mix the blend well to prevent any lumps which may block teats.

An alternative option is to mix the powder required with a small volume of hot water before adding it to milk.

This can be useful to help ensure that there are no lumps in the final solution and, depending on the volume being fed, it may have a benefit in that it does help to slightly increase the temperature of the solution being fed.

If you choose to use this method:

  • Make 250g of milk replacer up to 500mL (or 12.5kg of milk replacer up to 50L) with warm (50 – 60oC) water and add this to 1.5L (or 150L of milk), to give you 2L (or 200L) of milk with approximately 15.5% solids.
  • Feeding 4L of this solution will be equivalent to feeding 5L of milk.

If you wanted to mix a solution which would provide the same amount of nutrition in 4L as feeding 6L:

  • Make 290g of milk replacer up to 750mL (or 22kg of milk replacer up to 75L) with warm (50 – 60oC) water and add this to 1.25L (or 125L of milk), to give you 2L (or 200L) of milk with approximately 19% solids.

Regardless of which method of fortification you choose, it is important to:

  • Maintain consistency in both feeding temperature and mixing rates.
  • Take the time to measure out the volumes of milk and water you are using and make sure you use the same amount of powder and milk or milk and water every time.
  • When feeding fortified whole milk or using a once-a-day feeding protocol for calves it is imperative to ensure that calves have ad lib access to clean fresh water.

Fortified milk systems have many advantages. One is that they are extremely flexible and can be modified to suit your farming system and goals. Talk to our team today to help develop a system that suits you.

Fortify cow’s milk with quality Sprayfo Calf Milk Replacers

AgriVantage offers a choice of curding or whey Sprayfo calf milk replacers, each one offering different benefits for calf and growth development.

Sprayfo Blue CMR

Sprayfo Blue Premium Calf Milk Replacer

Our premium whey calf milk replacer for enhanced rumen development

Sprayfo Delta CMR

Sprayfo Delta Energised Calf Milk

Our premium curding calf milk replacer for optimised growth.

Is Sprayfo the right fit for your farm?