1) Nutritional Value
Nutritionally, milk replacer is designed to provide a consistent intake of vitamins and minerals tailored specially for the calf’s growth and nutritional needs.
According to Teagasc Moorepark Research Centre, calves on milk replacer grow and their rumens can develop just as well as they would on a whole milk diet, if they are fed a good-quality milk replacer and fed accurately as per instructions.
Teagasc studies in heifer calves have shown that the same weight gain and performance can be achieved on a good-quality milk replacer at 25% crude protein as on whole milk.
Calf performance can even be improved on a high-quality, whey-based milk replacer such as ProHeifer or ProCalf when compared with whole milk.
In trials, calves that were fed 27% protein and 16.6% fat dry matter up until weaning at 56 days were 6kg heavier on average compared to those fed whole milk.
Furthermore, the weight differential continued to day 70 as calves consumed 33% more concentrate over the period.
Studies have shown that feeding Cylactin, a probiotic feed, can reduce digestive disturbances such as diarrhoea, thereby optimising performance and feed conversion efficiency.
2) Disease Prevention
Milk replacer eliminates the risk of disease transmission of Johne’s disease causing bacteria Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), an incurable wasting disease characterised by diarrhoea, poor milk yield, weight loss and loss of productivity.
MAP is shed in the milk and faeces of an infected cow. As a result, pooled milk and colostrum, waste milk or milk and colostrum from infected cows or those yet to be confirmed clear of the disease, should be avoided to help prevent transmission.
Teats may be contaminated with faeces during feeding which also poses a risk.
Jim Murphy MRCVS, of Tir Na Bho Veterinary, Co. Waterford, who takes part in the Johne’s screening programme and offers farmers advice on managing the incidence of the disease on their farm, says: “Milk replacer really comes into its own as a major tool in helping to prevent the spread of Johne’s through whole milk.”
3) Antimicrobial Resistance
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is becoming a serious concern for the World Health Organisation as AMR will have a detrimental effect on the efficacy of frontline antibiotics in both human and animal health in the future.
Waste milk with a high antibiotic residue is unpalatable and therefore calves will drink less of it or not drink it at all which will affect their weight gain.
Studies have also shown that heifers who have been fed waste milk have shown to have a higher incidence of mastitis later in life. Waste milk can also cause digestive upset in calves if stored incorrectly or contaminated with faecal matter.
“Avoid use of waste milk and use a good-quality milk replacer like ProHeifer or ProCalf,” is the advice from vet Jim Murphy, when speaking about preventing AMR in calves through waste milk.