Calf Weaning Role of Milk Replacer and Calf Starter

Calf Weaning

A calf should not be weaned until it rumen is functional and capable of supporting the calf’s nutritional needs. But in organized farm at birth weaning can be practiced i.e. new born calves can be weaned just after birth and colostrums is fed manually. Calves should be usually weaned by weight and appetite rather than age. As a rule of thumb, calves can be weaned abruptly when they consume 800 to 1000 g of starter for two consecutive days (not less than 500 g). To ensure early and successful weaning, water and good quality starter must be available by the time the calf is 7 to 10 days old.

Until the rumen can start supplying energy and microbial protein sufficient for maintenance and growth, the calf must have a high quality liquid milk or milk replacer diet. Emphasis must be placed on both the qualities of the milk or milk replacer as well as the quantities that are offered. Also, sanitizing feeding and mixing equipment along with the proper handling and storage of milk and milk replacer are essential to avoid bacterial contamination that may lead to calf health problems.

Many calf milk feeding programs suggest a specific quantity of milk or milk replacer be fed twice daily for a period of up to six to eight weeks. This is often 250g of milk replacer powder per feeding in 2 liters of liquid. Ideally, milk feeding should be adjusted to the size and health of the calf and climatic conditions. It is vitally important that milk feeding programs be adjusted for climatic conditions.

IngredientsQuantity (Kg)
Wheat 10
Fish meal 12
Linseed meal 40
Milk 13
Coconut oil 07
Linseed oil/Cotton seed oil 03
Citric acid 1.5
Molasses 10
Mineral mixture 3
Butyric acid 0.3
Antibiotic mixture 0.3
Rovimix-A, B2, D3 0.015

Calf Starter Formula

IngredientQuantity (%)
Barley 40
Groundnut cake 25
Soybean cake 25
Dried skim milk 8
Steamed bone meal 1
Vitamins and minerals 1 (Irradiated yeast – 25g/100kg)

Rumen development takes place rapidly between 4 and 8 weeks of age. Starters are more important than forages as a source of fermentable carbohydrate for rumen development. Production of volatile fatty acids, particularly propionic and butyric acid in the rumen stimulates development of the rumen and the reticulum. Grain starter should be offered as early as four days after birth and should continue until about four months of age. Calves should be encouraged to consume starter by placing a small amount in the bottom of   the bucket from which the liquid diet is fed or hand  feeding small amounts. Starter intake usually becomes measurable between 7 and 14 days of age. Calf Starter Should be:

  • High quality.
  • Fresh
  • Palatable
  • Coarse textured

Once the calf is grown and ready to take concentrate feed, it has to be fed with properly balanced concentrate diet to ensure growth, development and early sexual maturity. Concentrate mixture may comprise of the following.

Concentrate Mixture Formula

IngredientQuantity (%)
Maize/Barley/Oats 45
Groundnut cake/Linseed/Til cake 35
Fish meal 7
Wheat bran/rice bran/chuni 10
Mineral mixture 3