Whey vs Skim Based Milk Replacers - Impact on Calf Performance

Calves artificially reared on skim-based compared to whey-based milk replacers do not perform any better in terms of daily live weight gain, according to research from Harper Adams University College in the UK.
calendar icon 23 September 2012
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Animal Bytes

There were no significant differences in daily live weight gain (DLWG) between calves fed either skim-based or whey-based milk replacer. Calf performance met or exceeded the MLC (1999) target for rearing calves to 12 weeks of 115 kg.

Some interesting results from a trial, carried out at Harper Adams University College, carried out to compare the effect of feeding either a skim-based or whey-based milk replacer on the performance of artificially reared dairy-bred bull calves to 12 weeks of age.

“Many commercial calf rearers believe that when artificially reared calves are fed skim-based rather than whey-based milk replacers that performance is improved and coat bloom scores improve. However, skim-based powders are more expensive than whey-based milk replacers (typically, £150 more per tonne). As a result of this price differential, the majority of milk powders on the feed market are whey-based,” Simon Marsh told delegates at the British Society of Animal Science’s annual conference, explaining the rationale behind his work.

A total of 40 Holstein and Continental cross Holstein bull calves were assigned in a randomised block designed experiment with 20 calves per treatment and fed either a skim or whey-based milk replacer. The milk replacers were mixed at 125 g per 850 ml of water at 40°C and fed twice per day in buckets. The calves were initially fed four litres per day and from day eight milk was fed at five litres per day.

“And we found that there were no significant differences in DLWG and coat bloom score between the treatments,” said Mr Marsh. “Concentrate intakes from start to weaning were not significantly different. However the calves on the whey-based milk replacer recorded higher intakes from weaning to 12 weeks and overall consumed an extra 13.6 kg more concentrates per calf.”

He said that the increased concentrate intake with the whey fed calves could be due to improved rumen development. “The higher concentrate intake would explain the increased live weight gain to 12 weeks old.”

There were no differences in the health or number of medication treatments between the groups. The calves reared on the whey-based powder recorded higher concentrate feed intakes post weaning and gained an extra 3.8 kg in live weight to 12 weeks of age however this was not statistically different.

“Based on the prices prevailing at the time of the study with skim-based and whey-based milk replacer costing £1,425 and £1,285/t respectively and concentrates costing £192/t, the total feed costs per calf to 12 weeks were £61.97 and £60.03, and the feed costs per kg LWG were 95.5 and 87.4 p for the skim and whey treatments respectively,” he added.

Full details: Marsh S and Boyd DT: “Evaluation of skim and whey based milk replacers on the performance of artificially reared dairy-bred bull calves.”

To view proceedings, Advances in Animal Biosciences, of all summaries presented at the Annual Conference and Powerpoint presentations, please click here.

August 2012

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