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Hey cow folks! Bottle calf question: whole milk or milk replacer?

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  • Hey cow folks! Bottle calf question: whole milk or milk replacer?

    So we have our first ever calf that we picked up from the auction. Auction vet estimated he is a few days old and said get milk replacer to bottle feed him. He drinks it ok but in researching about bottle calves, I have found that some people feed store bought whole milk for their bottle calves. And to me, that just makes sense...feed cow calf cow milk, not powdered milk replacer. Sooooo....do I/ should I/ can I switch him to whole milk from the grocery store or keep him on the powdered soy stuff?

  • #2
    I haven't raised a bottle calf in 17 years... but the last one I raised I used milk replacer - BUT - it was milk-based replacer, NOT the soy-based replacers that are so common now.

    I do have to bottle raise or supplement goat kids every spring, and I do use good ol' whole cows milk for them. They do not do well, IME, on the soy based replacers, and honestly, pouring whole milk out of a jug is SO MUCH easier than dealing with powder & water!

    Comment


    • #3
      We raised our two on milk replacer and they did well and thrived. The only thing I will say is if you switch from one to the other, do so gradually. We tried to make a switch from cow's milk to replacer quickly and one calf wouldn't take it - we have to get more cow's milk and do a gradual switch.
      The plural of anecdote is not data.

      Comment


      • #4
        No experience here but doesn't whole milk from the store have a bunch of the fat removed (and used for other things)? Will a calf do OK with out that extra fat/calories? I would think the milk replacer has stuff added into it to make it more nutritionally complete that pasteurized processed milk from the store.

        Comment


        • #5
          We didn't have dairy cows, didn't milk cows.
          Our cows being beef cows, the rare dogied calf was fed milk replacer.
          We didn't have real milk in volume and don't live close to stores.
          That is the main advantage of milk replacer, is balanced for calves and it keeps in the bags until you prepare it.
          In dairies, they feed them real milk if they have a few, if they raise all of theirs and have many, they generally go to replacer, that is cheaper than they can sell the real milk they produce for.

          If we felt a calf was not thriving, before adding more replacer, which may scour one, we would add an egg or buttermilk to a feeding, that ok'd by our old vet, don't know if they still recommend that today.
          Here is more:

          https://afs.ca.uky.edu/files/feeding...ths_of_age.pdf

          Note the paragraph about how little calves stomachs are not fully functioning for the first weeks of life.

          I think if someone only has one or two little calves that need to be on milk, real whole milk or replacer are both fine.
          As others above have already mentioned, try to stick to the same, changes may cause scours.

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          • #6
            We always used milk replacer. Whole milk sounds very $$$!

            Comment


            • #7
              Keep him on calf milk replacer. It's the appropriate composition for calves to receive their nutrients and calories. Also make sure it's the right temperature when you feed. Too cool can cause tummy upset. The bag should say. When I was on the dairy farm, we used a thermometer when mixing up the calves bottles with milk replacer.

              Feeding calves store-bought milk, that's been pasteurized and fat removed, seems similar to feeding dog food to a horse - it's just not made for the animal for which you're trying to feed. Or like the people who have fed their human babies almond milk (I'm assuming some have because there's a warning on the cartons...)
              "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

              Comment


              • #8
                The few years that we picked up bottle calves we always used milk replacer from TSC, and we always had some bags of electrolytes handy just in case.
                We always had 3 or 4 calves so the milk replacer was more convenient, cheaper, easier to store, and I felt more comfortable that it was formulated to address their needs.

                You can also buy a number of milk replacers with specific additives. Again this can be more convenient then trying to add them to whole milk at the correct dosage.

                If you've only got one then I would imagine it's really up to you. If you do feed whole milk I'd recommend that you get pasteurized stuff. You don't know what the cow could be passing on, or if the milk was contaminated before it got to your calf. Pasteurization won't destroy anything your calf needs, it will just eliminate unsafe bacteria. Make sure you only buy whole milk that fits into the optimum protein and fat requirements though.
                This is Merricks milk replacer guide. They don't condemn feeding whole milk, they just point out that it's often cheaper to feed replacer.

                http://www.merricks.com/uploads/Milk...2007-26-12.pdf

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks everyone. It just seemed like common sense...feed a cow cow milk but when I wrote the op, it didn't occur to me that the pasteurization process would alter the milk enough to not be suitable for a cow calf.
                  Here, a gallon of milk is $1.78 for whole milk (Wal-Mart) and eggs are $0.48 (Aldi's) and the milk replacer is $44 a bag. So since I have a 3 yr old daughter we always have whole milk on hand for her and thought that after my reading about feeding the calf whole milk, it would be easier, less mess, and more logical. But I guess not! Glad I asked.
                  Thanks everyone!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Last time we bought bottle calves from a dairy, they came with a couple of gallons of actual mother's milk to aid us in the transition to replacer. We screwed up and didn't make the transition gradual enough. I don't think we even considered using grocery store milk because of the low fat content. Before another local farmer graciously offered us some of their raw milk, we were considering getting the premium creamline milk in the glass half gallons, but that's crazy expensive.

                    Since you bought the from an auction, I'm guessing that there wasn't any mother's milk sent with him.

                    If your calf doesn't take immediately to the replacer, I would mix in a little of the premium, high fat milk at first to get him to take it, then gradually eliminate it.
                    The plural of anecdote is not data.

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                    • #11
                      I would do whole milk myself. I have raised multiple goats on whole milk and have been warned by multiple breeders that the replacer can cause upset stomachs.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        On the farm I worked on we used milk replacer for the calves when we didn't have "dump milk" to give them.

                        We also started them on a bit of calf starter feed once they were about 5 days old and they had water buckets at all times.

                        Teaching the little buggers how to drink out of a regular bucket was so frustrating and messy, lol!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          We fed the milk replacer, but at the time it came with antibiotics that helped our first one who did not get any colostrum. He was "difficult" and we ended up at the Vet, with dehydration. Vet said to give him bottles 3 times a day, made with warm water. Vet also said dehydration is a leading cause of calf deaths, so we did the skin pinch test often, checking him for being hydrated. He had a bucket of water available at all times, thick beddingt and a calf blanket because it was winter. I made the blankets out of polar fleece for easy washing when dirty. Calves do well breathing in cold air but need to avoid drafts. Cold ears mean he is cold, so you need to do something about it. I put 2 horses in the stalls on both sides of him to heat up the barn a bit. Wash and clean the bottle WELL after every use.

                          We introduced pellets in very small quantity after a couple weeks, just a handful each day for another week or so to get his stomach used to digesting them. Then more quantity of pellets and some hay to chew. After his first week home from the Vet, he improved and grew nicely. Our large bag of milk replacer lasted over a month and he was eating hay and some pellets nicely by the time it ran out.

                          With our second bottle calf, we went to a high quality dairy farm this time, where they took good care of the calves. Calf cost a bit more, but it had colostrum, was drinking milk replacer well, was bright eyed, energetic, navel cord had been treated. The folks asked if we had been by cattle, had cattle, before we could go to the barn. Taking disease prevention seriously!! Good sign to me! The barn was a dedicated calf barn, held about 100 new calves in individual stalls. We were told which calves were for sale so daughter could pick which she wanted. That calf was cared for the same as first calf, never had any problems. Worth the extra purchase cost to save on the Vet fees. This farm treats the calves as a crop, worth investing time and good care into, for making money on later. They do not sell many bottle calves, just to 4-H kids because they are big 4-H supporters. .

                          If you plan to get any more calves, you might want to "buy local" at a nearby dairy farm. Make sure it is "a nice place" where the animals are clean bedded, alert looking. Bring it home INSIDE your vehicle if it is cold outside, to prevent chilling it. Calf is not exposed to auction germs, tossed in a pen with others in various stages of health. You can see if navel is treated or if calf has even been fed.

                          Daughter wanted to visit an auction after other kids said they got auction calves. It was rather eye-opening for her, even at age 15. So many BADLY TREATED dairy calves going thru the ring. Some deformed and weak calves they got a couple dollars on. Fresh navel cords, not treated yet. We didn't stay long, too sad. You can't buy sad calves. We messed up our first calf buying at the farm that did not take adequate care of newborns. Easy to see dirty stall, 4 calves on a nurse cow, so ltitle ones got almost nothing. I SHOULD have known better, walked away, but daught wanted "that one." Vet charges to get him fixed up was 3 times what he cost!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Minxitbabe View Post
                            I would do whole milk myself. I have raised multiple goats on whole milk and have been warned by multiple breeders that the replacer can cause upset stomachs.
                            Curious, when you say whole milk do you mean the stuff that people buy at Walmart or do you actually mean milk that has not been separated to have almost no fat in it (compared to how it came out)?

                            I am just wondering if people are using the same term for two different things.

                            Whole milk at the grocery store is certainly not milk that is whole.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by trubandloki View Post

                              Curious, when you say whole milk do you mean the stuff that people buy at Walmart or do you actually mean milk that has not been separated to have almost no fat in it (compared to how it came out)?

                              I am just wondering if people are using the same term for two different things.

                              Whole milk at the grocery store is certainly not milk that is whole.
                              Whole milk from the grocery store.

                              I don't know of any breeders in my "circle" who use replacer for goats anymore. They have all gone to whole milk from the store, it is digested way better than soy-based milk replacer. Whole milk is a LOT closer to what "comes out of a cow (or goat)" than "milk" made with soy.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Here's some information that should help. It's way more than you asked for, but you can skip to the section on liquid feeds. Either whole milk or a milk replacer designed for young calves will work. Milk replacers with cow's milk protein are typically higher quality than those with soy protein. The amount you feed is also critical and should be based on the calf's body weight.

                                Whole milk from the grocery store legally must contain at least 3.25% milk fat. If the fat content of a batch of milk is higher than that, many processors will remove some of it to use for butter, ice cream, and other higher fat products. Milk fat content depends largely on breed and diet. Of all the dairy breeds, Holsteins have the lowest fat content - about 3.7%. This is much higher than the ~3.3% average in the mid-1970s. Whole milk containing 3.25% milk fat should be sufficient for a calf if it's feed in a sufficient amount.
                                <p>Every heifer calf born on a dairy farm represents an opportunity to maintain or increase herd size, to improve the herd genetically, or to improve economic returns to the farm. The objectives of raising the newborn calf to weaning age are optimizing gr

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by moving to dc View Post

                                  Whole milk from the grocery store.

                                  I don't know of any breeders in my "circle" who use replacer for goats anymore. They have all gone to whole milk from the store, it is digested way better than soy-based milk replacer. Whole milk is a LOT closer to what "comes out of a cow (or goat)" than "milk" made with soy.
                                  I find that odd, because goat milk is different enough from cow milk, it is used for giving babies that are lactose intolerant. Human, foals, both do well on goat
                                  milk with so much less fat in it than cows milk. I would not think baby goats would do well on such fat-rich (even skimmed of cream fats) cows milk either. I personally don't care for goat milk, guess I am to used too drinking cow milk, even thinned to 1%.

                                  I would certainly agree that "store bought, whole milk" is not like how it came out of the cow! They label the fat content of milk for people trying to avoid milk fats. Certain breeds of cattle have much higher fat content in their milk, like Jerseys and Guernsey cows produce. One or two of those breed cows in a milking herd will really boost the butterfat levels of your daily milk production of the entire herd. Dutch Belted milk cows have small fat globules in their milk, making it more easily digested, very desirable for use in artisinial cheese production.

                                  With local milk prices at the store, it is more economical for me to feed the milk replacer. Storage is easier too, no spoilage in its powder form, smaller, non-refrigerated storage space needed.

                                  Good luck with the calves.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by goodhors View Post

                                    I find that odd, because goat milk is different enough from cow milk, it is used for giving babies that are lactose intolerant. Human, foals, both do well on goat
                                    milk with so much less fat in it than cows milk. I would not think baby goats would do well on such fat-rich (even skimmed of cream fats) cows milk either. I personally don't care for goat milk, guess I am to used too drinking cow milk, even thinned to 1%.
                                    Depending on the reference you use, goat milk averages 3.5-4% fat and 4.1-4.7% lactose. Cow's milk is generally 3.6-4% protein and 4.7% lactose. In reality, very few babies are likely to be lactose intolerant. It's far more likely a protein in the milk they're sensitive to. Goat milk and cow milk differ in their casein composition, so that potentially could be a factor.

                                    Originally posted by goodhors View Post
                                    I would certainly agree that "store bought, whole milk" is not like how it came out of the cow! They label the fat content of milk for people trying to avoid milk fats. Certain breeds of cattle have much higher fat content in their milk, like Jerseys and Guernsey cows produce. One or two of those breed cows in a milking herd will really boost the butterfat levels of your daily milk production of the entire herd. Dutch Belted milk cows have small fat globules in their milk, making it more easily digested, very desirable for use in artisinial cheese production.
                                    If a farm has 100 cows, one Jersey cow that produces high fat milk isn't likely to significantly alter the overall fat percent of the comingled milk.

                                    Originally posted by goodhors View Post
                                    With local milk prices at the store, it is more economical for me to feed the milk replacer. Storage is easier too, no spoilage in its powder form, smaller, non-refrigerated storage space needed.

                                    Good luck with the calves.
                                    This I agree with! It'll be far easier to feed and store and will be more economical as well.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by moving to dc View Post

                                      Whole milk from the grocery store.

                                      I don't know of any breeders in my "circle" who use replacer for goats anymore. They have all gone to whole milk from the store, it is digested way better than soy-based milk replacer. Whole milk is a LOT closer to what "comes out of a cow (or goat)" than "milk" made with soy.
                                      You keep mentioning soy based milk replacer, however no one in my "circle" of calf raising acquaintances would use anything but those based with cows milk. TSC in Canada only sells all milk protein milk replacement for calves, lambs, and kids. A quick look at Purina (easy to get here) shows that of their 5 milk replacers 4 are milk proteins, and one is a blend of milk and soy (50/50).

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by GoodTimes View Post

                                        You keep mentioning soy based milk replacer, however no one in my "circle" of calf raising acquaintances would use anything but those based with cows milk. TSC in Canada only sells all milk protein milk replacement for calves, lambs, and kids. A quick look at Purina (easy to get here) shows that of their 5 milk replacers 4 are milk proteins, and one is a blend of milk and soy (50/50).
                                        I am glad that it is so easy to find milk-based replacers in Canada.

                                        Where I live, and actually, spread across the US where my "circle of friends" all live, it is not always so easy to find milk-based replacers. Soy is quite common, and you have to really look at the package ingredients to find if the replacer is milk-based or soy-based. Not all "newbies" know to look that closely...

                                        Comment

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