Calf milk replacers and proteins

When it comes to calf milk replacers, the choice is huge. Nina Hennes, our research ­specialist, is convinced that each farmer needs to understand the quality differences of the powders to achieve optimal calf rearing. An essential nutrient for calves is protein. In this edition she answers the question: “Which source of protein is most suitable to feed to your calves?”

Which protein is most suitable for your calf?

The question is what are the best proteins for the youngest calves, a group of animals that naturally deserves the very best. “The best rearing results are achieved with a calf milk powder based on dairy protein. Young animals are best equipped to digest precisely those proteins,” suggested Nina Hennes. “Vegetable-based proteins are an economically attractive alternative, but are less easily digested. Another reasonable alternative is hydrolysed wheat protein, but soya protein, for example, significantly reduces digestibility and has a negative impact on calf growth and health.” So go for a milk replacer high in dairy protein!

What makes calf milk replacer better than cow’s milk?

High in dairy protein would seem to be an argument in favour of feeding cow’s milk, but as a result of the fluctuations in composition, and the increased risk of disease transmission, cow’s milk is less suitable for feeding to calves, explained Hennes. “In addition, cow’s milk often lacks a number of important minerals, that are constantly available in sufficient quantities in milk powder. These include iron which is essential for oxygen transport and overall resistance.” She also added that the risk of pathogens as a result of health ­problems is increased, if you feed cow’s milk. “The ingredients in calf milk powder are pasteurised, so any germs have been inactivated. In addition, calf milk replacers are enriched with health-promoting additives such as prebiotics and probiotics and organic acids are added to milk powder, to improve digestion and to encourage a healthy intestinal system.”