Tip 4: Choose a higher plane of feeding rather than a restricted diet

Better long-term growth after weaning 

Higher weights due to feeding an elevated plane of nutrition and weaning later rather than earlier are sustained months after weaning, as mentioned in Tip 1. Indeed, the growth advantages of using an elevated plane of nutrition combined with weaning later do not stop at the time of weaning, but rather this management strategy continues to promote long-term growth advantages as well.

Eventual lactation performance boosted

Research shows that for every gram of growth in the first 63 days of a calf's life, up to 4 litres of milk can be produced. It has been shown in numerous studies (Soberon, et al. 2012, amongst others) that extra growth can be achieved by upping the level pre-weaning calf nutrition. The enhanced development of mammary tissue, most notably that of the mammary parenchyma, the gland's productive tissue, is a by-product of early and rapid growth (Geiger et al., 2015) and plays an active role in enhanced milk production in cows that have been optimally nourished in the first eight weeks of life.

Helps reduce calving age

Studies show (Davis-Rincker, et al. 2011, amongst others) that the increased growth rates achieved by feeding a higher plane of nutrition pre-weaning, can lower the age of first calving significantly. As calving is a function on body weight and stature, not age, new insemination benchmarks of 13 months (with calving benchmarks therefore set at 22 months) are based on the accelerated growth rates achieved by upping the level of pre-weaning nutrition. This increases the potential productivity of the heifer while lowering the overall cost of production, including replacement rates and rearing costs, as well as reducing calf mortality.

Holstein dairy calves show the effect of milk replacer on pre-weaning organ development