Feeding Heifer Calves in an Intensive Dairy System

 In Advice, Health

As any good dairy farmer realises, calves are the future of your herd, thus from the moment they are born they need to have the absolute best care possible, and this includes feeding them the right things at the right time.

Vitally, calves have to receive colostrum as soon as they are born, otherwise they will not receive the antibodies required to build up their immune system and will most likely die or grow into small, sickly heifers.

We recommend feeding a calf meal and hay from birth so that calves can start to develop their rumen early, resulting in better growth rates and healthier heifers.

Calf meal should contain adequate fibre, starch and well-balanced nutrients and vitamins for good development of the rumen and the achievement of desirable growth rates. Calf grower, fed from 3 months of age, should be well balanced and contain all the elements essential to maintain ideal growth rates to achieve maximum growth, rumen development and strength by 6 months of age.

Calves and weaners must always have access to clean and fresh drinking water.

Immediately after birth

  1. Remove the calf from its mother.
  2. Milk the mother and test colostrum quality. If quality is above 1050, record information and use to feed calf or store in refrigerator if other high quality colostrum is already available.
  3. Feed calf colostrum within one hour of birth using a Milk Bar colostrum feeder with a special soft yellow teat. Ideally the calf should drink 10% of its body weight in colostrum in the first feed. Colostrum should be at 37 to 38 degrees Celsius!
  4. If the calf is failing to drink from the colostrum feeder, someone with experience in tubing may feed it using a gut feeder. This must be done carefully and as a last resort, as incorrect tubing may result in the death of the calf.
  5. The calf should receive at least 6 litres of colostrum within the first 12 hours of birth.

First 3 days after birth

  1. Continue to feed calf colostrum using a milk bar single feeder. A soft colostrum teat can be used on the single feeder to get the calf used to drinking from the teat.

First 2 weeks (in M.A.R.S pen)

  1. Feed the calf 2.5 litres of milk twice a day using a Milk Bar feeder fitted with a black Milk Bar teat (5 litres a day total). Ensure milk is at 37ºC. Milk Replacer can be used if desired/required.
  2. Provide calf with ad lib hay and calf meal e.g. Icefeed Quick Start Calf Meal.

Week 3 to 8

  1. Feed the calf 3 litres of milk twice a day using a Milk Bar feeder fitted with a black Milk Bar teat (6 litres a day total). Ensure milk is at 37ºC.
  2. In weeks 3 and 4, provide Ad lib calf meal e.g. Icefeed Quick Start and ad lib hay.
  3. Weeks 5 to 8, provide ad lib Calf Grower, e.g. Icefeed Calf Grower Meal, and ad lib hay.

Week 9

  1. Feed the calf 1.5 litres of milk twice a day using a Milk Bar feeder fitted with a black Milk Bar teat (3 litres a day total). Ensure milk is at 37ºC.
  2. Provide ad lib Calf Grower, e.g. Icefeed Calf Grower Meal, and ad lib hay.

Week 10

  1. Feed the calf 1 litre of milk twice a day using a Milk Bar feeder fitted with a black Milk Bar teat (2 litres a day total). Ensure milk is at 37ºC.
  2. Provide ad lib Calf Grower, e.g. Icefeed Calf Grower Meal, and ad lib hay.

Week 10 and 11

  1. Wean: stop feeding milk and provide ad lib calf grower and hay.

Week 11 to 4 months

  1. Feed calf grower and hay ad lib.

4 to 5.5 months

  1. Feed each weaner heifer 4kg of calf grower and 4 kg of your total mixed ration (TMR) a day.

5.5 to 6 months

  1. Feed each weaner heifer 2 kg of calf grower and 8 kg of your total mixed ration (TMR) a day.
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Comments
  • Vincent Kunda

    Thank you very much for this piece of information. It is very helpful indeed. Please keep us posted on matters you feel will benefit the dairy farmers and indeed those in the livestock production.

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