The New Standard in Feeding Dairy Calves

Calf : Calf Nutrition

Animal : Calf

Tom Earleywine, Ph.D.

Director of Nutritional Services

The long-standing practice of feeding dairy calves 2 quarts of milk or milk replacer twice a day has largely become a thing of the past.
As an industry, we are recognizing the importance of feeding dairy calves more nutrition early in life and the impact this nutrition has on calf growth and future milk production. Feeding calves a full potential diet of at least 2.5 pounds of milk solids in 8 to 12 quarts of calf milk replacer daily is becoming the new standard of calf feeding.
The new standard of calf feeding is 2.5 pounds of milk solids in 8-12 quarts per day.According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) Dairy 2014 study,40 percent of dairy calves were fed 4 to 6 quarts of milk or milk replacer per day, 20 percent were fed 6 to 8 quarts per day, 20 percent were fed 8 to 10 quarts per day and almost 10 percent were fed 10 quarts or more per day.
Additional insights from a focused, in-depth NAHMS calf study2 showed an average of 6 quarts of milk or milk replacer fed to dairy calves per day. This nutrition was delivered an average of 2.6 times per day with 2.7 quarts fed per feeding.
The study also found a direct correlation between the amount of liquid nutrients fed per day and average daily gain. About 35 percent of calves in the study achieved “excellent” average daily gain of 1.8 pounds per day or more in the pre-weaning phase. The average daily gain of all calves in the study was 1.65 pounds per day.   
Feed your calves a full potential diet with LAND O LAKES® Cow’s Match® calf milk replacer.

1 USDA. 2016. Dairy 2014, “Dairy Cattle Management Practices in the United States, 2014”. USDA-APHIS-VS-CEAH-NAHMS. Ft. Collins, CO. #692.0216
Shivley, C., Urie, N. and Lombard, J. 2016. Factors associated with average daily gain in dairy heifer calves on U.S. dairy operations., J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 99, E-Suppl. 1; Study involved 104 dairy and calf operations in 13 states