Monitoring of pasteurization systems

Pasteurize waste cows milk and colostrum
CalfStart understands the value of your
replacements and strives to assist you
optimizing their productivity through
monitoring, education and consultation in
the management of newborn calf nutrition
using whole pasteurized milk and colostrum systems.


It’s difficult to go to any meeting of calf managers these days without hearing conversation about “accelerated growth” or “intensive feeding programs.” These calf raisers are talking about feeding milk replacer at rates higher than one pound of dry matter or powder per day. But, we hear too little about the basic conditions that need to be in place before feeding for faster growth.

Newborn Management

Calves born in dirty conditions or left too long with a dam having manure on her belly and flanks scour consistently regardless of IgG level. These calves are not good candidates for intensive feeding programs.

Be sure your newborn management program is at least very good before considering feeding higher rates of milk replacer. That means: 

  • Calves are kept away from adult cow manure from birth to hutch or pen. 
  • Adequate amounts of good quality clean colostrum are fed as soon as possible after birth. 
  • Adequacy of your colostrum management is checked periodically. Having your vet obtain blood samples from about twelve calves can do this. Blood from calves from two to seven days of age may be used.
  • If more than half of these samples give refractometer readings of BSTP below

    5.5, then it is my opinion that your colostrum program needs attention before

    starting an intensive feeding program.


Nothing much cheaper than water. Nothing is fed to preweaned calves much less often than water? Why? “Too much work.” “It takes too long.” “I can’t be bothered.” “The calves don’t need water, they have milk. “

I measured the extra time involved in providing water to hutch calves at Noblehurst. As long as the water didn’t freeze I spent one minute per day per calf to provide water AM and PM. That time included loading water, dumping water pails and delivering the water. During freezing weather I spent twice as long to provide water two times daily.

Why do we feed water? For calves before they begin eating much grain, we are trying to increase their milk replacer intake. It was my impression that calves came up on full feed.

Basics for More than One Pound per Day 2 of 3

 (two pounds of milk replacer powder daily) much more quickly with free-choice water from day one than without water.

Also, since I had a very high rate of cryptosporidiosis, I fed water to prevent dehydration due to crypto-induced diarrhea. Water is essential for dealing with heat stress, too.

We’ve heard the old wives tale about how feeding water keeps calves from drinking their milk. That’s bunk! If calves have free-choice water consistently, then they will drink what they need.

It is true that at an occasional feeding milk consumption may be down. But the general rule applies. Preweaned calves do better with water than without it, especially calves less than three weeks of age.

If you cannot include water feeding to calves, then do not even consider feeding higher rates of milk replacer (this does not apply to feeding some extra powder during very cold weather).

In my experience in 1998 and 1999 with nearly 800 calves fed at rates of thirty ounces of milk replacer per day and higher, it’s either feed water or don’t even try rates higher than twenty or twenty-four ounces of milk replacer powder per day. Why? Without free- choice water milk replacer consumption suffers. And, even otherwise healthy calves suffer from diarrhea and dehydration. Stress-induced pneumonia increases as well as mortality.

Big calf, small calf

Big ninety to one-hundred pound calves that were kept away from adult cow manure and receive plenty of good mature cow colostrum soon after birth can eat their little hearts out and never get sick. I’ve fed them nearly three pounds of powder in eight quarts of mix daily as early as a week old. They grow like weeds. They stay healthy.

But, lots of calves are not that large. Thirteen percent of our calves at Noblehurst were less than seventy-five pounds at birth. Guess what? They can’t be fed the same amount as a one-hundred pound calf. This isn’t news to anyone that’s worked with calves.

Most small calves until they are several weeks old just won’t eat that much (eight quarts) even if offered. Frequently, they will drink a lot in the morning and nothing in the afternoon if large volumes are fed. The few that do drink seven or eight quarts promptly get so loose that they have to be cut back.

Also, if you depend on calves running up to the feeding pail at the afternoon feeding as way to check on their health, then you may have to accommodate some morning-only drinkers under twenty-one days of age.

If your feeding program can accommodate feeding different amounts of milk replacer depending on calf size and health, you may be ready to consider an intensive feeding program. If you are definitely a “one amount for all calves” operation, then forget higher feeding rates. Feeding large amounts of high-protein milk replacer to every calf regardless of her newborn care, size and health is a recipe for high scours rates and death loss.

Come on, can’t you say something positive?

Yes, I can. Let’s say you have a good newborn management program already in place. IgG levels are high and navel infections are low. You are already feeding water year round to calves. Small or sick calves are receiving individual attention. Death losses are below five percent. Pneumonia cases are below ten percent. Yes, an intensive feeding program for increased growth rates might be cost effective on your operation.

Adopt an intensive feeding program as a cure for a calf-raising program that does not meet these standards? No. No. No. A thousand times, No. Think of an intensive feeding program as frosting on a cake. Until you can bake a delicious cake don’t spend time and energy making frosting.

References: While no single source was used in preparing this paper, articles and presentations by and conversations with the following persons should receive credit for providing the groundwork upon which the author drew heavily in making his on-farm observations: Mike Fowler at Land ‘O Lakes, Jud Heinrichs at Penn State, Jim Quigley at APC Corp. and Mike VanAmburg at Cornell. September, 1999, revised October 2009.

Sam Leadley, Calf & Heifer Management Specialist

Attica Vet. Assoc. 2010 All Rights Reserved.

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