Calf Starter Grain: Critical to the Weaning Transition
by Kelly Driver
The consumption of calf starter not only bolsters rumen development, but it can help assure a smooth weaning transition for calves, bridging the change from a liquid ration to a diet of solely dry feeds and water. Maintaining targeted growth rates and animal health can be dependent on calf starter intakes through this time.
According to Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards, calves should at least double their birth weight by 56 days of age. The post-weaning growth rate depends on the target mature size, taking into account breed and genetic factors (DCHA). Calf starter is important to the pre-weaned calf for two reasons - it stimulates rumen development and as consumption increases, more nutrients are available to support growth.
Calves that are being weaned at about six weeks of age will be smaller and should each be consuming 2-3 pounds of starter per day for three consecutive days before weaning, according to the DCHA’s Gold Standards. We should expect calves being weaned at eight weeks of age to be eating 4-5 pounds of starter grain per calf each day for three consecutive days before weaning (DCHA).
What can we do to boost calf starter intakes?
Introducing calf starter to young calves with Calf-Tel’s starter bowl allows them to reach the starter easier than a deeper pail to begin smelling and tasting it. Calf-Tel recommends refreshing the starter daily to encourage intakes that support rumen development in young calves.
Here is a guideline for Target Calf Starter Intake from John K. Bernard, a professor in dairy nutrition at the University of Georgia:
Days 1-14: 0.12 lbs./day
Days 15-21: 0.25 lbs./day
Days 22-28: 0.50 lbs./day
Days 29-35: 1.00 lbs./day
Days 36-42: 2.00 lbs./day
Days 43-60: 4.45 lbs./day
There may be variations from this based on volumes of milk fed, so always consult with your nutritionist and veterinarian regularly.
Now available from Calf-Tel the Universal Starter Bowl. Fits directly in any pail holder. Visit our SHOP to purchase.
Kelly Driver has been involved in the New York dairy industry all her life. In addition to raising dairy calves and replacement heifers, she is the Northeast Territory Manager for Calf-Tel. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your calf questions or suggest a topic you would like covered in a future blog.
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Dairy Calf and Heifer Association. (2016). Gold Standards I and II.
Dairy Herd Management. (2018, November 2). Promote calf starter intake. Retrieved from https://www.dairyherd.com/article/promote-calf-starter-intake
Gilles, M. (2018, September 24). Starter intake drives calf gains. Hoard’s Dairyman. Retrieved from https://hoards.com/article-24007-starter-intake-drives-calf-gains.html
Hanson, M. (2019, September 4). Hints for starting calves on starter. Dairy Herd Management. Retrieved from https://www.dairyherd.com/article/hints-starting-calves-starterLeadley, S. (2019, October). Getting better calf starter intake. Calving Ease. Retrieved from http://atticacows.com/library/newsletters/CEOctober2019.pdf