The market is saturated with different milk powders, all with their own niche selling point and most of them promise to provide you with the solution you are looking for (whatever that may be!) I think it is fair to say many farmers look at the oil and protein levels stated on the bag, followed by price per tonne and end up making a relatively uninformed decision.
Do you really know what you’re buying?
Having recently started as a calf specialist, I have been surprised how much price has a hold over which powder farmer choose to invest in. The bag label can be very misleading or confusing and the only standard comparisons are Protein %, Fat % and Price.
Let’s look at a classic scenario: two different powders, both 23% protein, 20% oil with a price difference of £200.00 tonne, obviously the cheaper one looks more appealing – and why wouldn’t it! But how can there be such a difference when the labels look almost identical.
These two powders look exactly the same at a glance but to have such a price differentiation there will most certainly be a compromise in raw material. It comes down to the quality of the raw materials used and it is quite difficult from having only the information on the bag to decipher what the quality is. Young calves need a digestible milk powder, this includes protein sources stemming from dairy protein as opposed to vegetable protein, the more digestible the protein and fats are, the more the calf is able to utilise them allowing the calf to thrive.
Powders that have a high vegetable protein inclusion can cause nutritional scour in the first few weeks of life, particularly the first month when calves are still pre-ruminants and rely on milk as their main source of nutrients.
I appreciate that total cost is always going to be a factor, no matter what product is being purchased, but the quality of a calf milk replacer is so important at the stage where calves are at their most efficient in terms of converting energy into growth. It’s a very vulnerable period where we have this ONE opportunity to induce metabolic programming, ensuring we determine the lifetime performance of that animal.
With enhanced early nutrition, research has shown we can pre-programme calves to allow them to express their full genetic potential alongside reducing morbidity and mortality’ (LifeStart, 2018).
Choosing to purchase a cheaper milk powder may accumulate more costs in the long run with higher calf disease, decreased growth rates, later AFC and lower milk yield through the first lactation to name a few. A healthy calf is a productive one!
Make a more informed choice!
Firstly, you need to have a clear idea of what your youngstock goals are and what you want from your milk replacer:
– Are you looking for something to feed to your dairy replacement heifers?
– Are you looking for an enhanced feeding system to get the best possible performance from them, not just now, but also later in life?
– Do you need something to feed to a mix of heifer replacements and beef calves that are being reared together?
– What growth targets do you want to achieve by weaning?
– What age do you want your heifers to calve down?
Things to think about or ask when choosing a milk replacer:
– What are the main sources of protein in the milk?
– What concentration is it safe to feed at?
– Does the powder mix well at a low water temperature?
– What growth rates can I expect from this powder?
– If the supplier is knowledgeable and confident in their product they will be able to give you as much detail as you wish and continued support whilst you are using their products.
For information on the Wynngold™ calf milk powder range, please contact your local calf specialist.