Holstein calfDuring challenging economic times many dairy producers seek ways to reduce cost. Very often this cost cutting affects the calf and heifer replacement program. Unfortunately reducing costs in this area could result in detrimental long-term effects on the calf and the farm's bottom-line. Breeding success and life-time milk production are impacted by the plane of nutrition the animal receives. Short term success of the operation can also be challenged by decisions to reduce cost. If you choose to feed a less nutritionally sound program to your calves health and medicine costs could rise as they are often associated with poor nutrition. Weaning success is also dependent on the best possible start.

When producers look to reduce costs, one of the most common questions asked is: What if I mix my own starter or grower on-farm? The nutrients are the same. Land O'Lakes Purina Feed calf and heifer specialist, Christy Stanley suggests producers study the following before considering mixing their own calf starter or grower.

  • Performance demonstrates that these on-farm mixes do not typically perform as well. The physical form of a feed affects palatability. If there are too many fines or small particles the calves will go off feed. Also, calves may sort and leave behind some of the ingredients that have essential roles in supporting growth and development.

  • On-farm total mixed rations may be too bulky for young ruminants. The nutrients may be similar to the commercial product but the intake will not be as high. Choosing to mix a feed on-farm limits the use of technology in the feed which has been shown to optimize calf intake and performance.

  • There is also a labor cost and equipment use associated with on-farm mixes. There is a potential for mixing errors associated with mixing calf starters and growers.

  • Textured or pelleted feeds manufactured from a feed mill incorporate all of the critical ingredients into a form that the calf can eat and results in a high-quality feed with a consistent nutrient profile at every feeding.

All of the above factors should be considered before a dairy producer decides on whether to mix the calf starter and grower rations on-farm or not. For more information, reach out to your local Land O'Lakes Purina Feed calf and heifer specialist or visit www.amplicalf.com.