The long-standing practice of feeding dairy calves 2 quarts of milk or milk replacer twice a day has largely become a thing of the past.
“As an industry, we are recognizing the importance of feeding calves more nutrition early in life and the impact this nutrition has on calf growth and future production,” says Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services with Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products. “Feeding calves a full potential diet of at least 2.5 pounds of milk solids in 8 to 10 quarts of liquid daily is becoming the new standard of calf feeding.”According to new data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s recently released National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) Dairy 2014 study, 40 percent of heifer calves received a low plane of nutrition of 4 to 6 quarts of milk or milk replacer per day. A feeding rate of 6 to 8 quarts per day was fed by 20 percent of dairies in the study, while 20 percent fed 8 to 10 quarts per day and almost 10 percent fed 10 quarts or more per day.
Additional insights from a focused, in-depth NAHMS calf study involving 104 dairy and calf operations in 13 states showed an average of 6 quarts of milk or milk replacer fed to dairy calves per day. This nutrition was delivered in an average of 2.6 times per day with 2.7 quarts fed per feeding.
The study also found a direct correlation between the amount of liquid nutrients fed per day and average daily gain. About 35 percent of calves in the study achieved “excellent” average daily gain of 1.8 pounds per day or more in the pre-weaning phase. The average daily gain of calves in the study was 1.65 pounds per day.
For more information on full potential feeding, visit lolmilkreplacer.com or call (800) 618-6455.
 USDA. 2016. Dairy 2014, “Dairy Cattle Management Practices in the United States, 2014”. USDA-APHIS-VS-CEAH-NAHMS. Ft. Collins, CO. #692.0216
 Shivley, C., Urie, N. and Lombard, J. 2016. Factors associated with average daily gain in dairy heifer calves on U.S. dairy operations., J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 99, E-Suppl. 1