Best Recipe of milk replacer for newborn calves

Milk Replacer recipe for newborn calves

The future of your herd depends on quality colostrum, milk or replacer feeding and disease control along with proper bedding, sanitation and ventilation.

Milk secretion is a defining characteristic of mammals. Milk composition varies by species, by stage of lactation, age and there are dietary influences, as well.

In developing a product to replace milk to feed neonatal animals, that is to say we’re going to make a “milk replacer,” step one will be to try to match the composition of the milk the target animal would consume from its dam.

On a solids basis, the composition of cows’ milk is typically 25%-29% protein, but fat content is much higher in dairy milk than beef milk. This is likely a reflection of genetic selection of dairy cows over hundreds or thousands of years for milk with high butterfat. Interestingly enough, the milk composition that research shows is best for both dairy and beef calf performance is most similar to beef milk. This milk is higher protein (26%-28%) and lower fat (14%-17%), which is different than today’s typical milk replacers.

Milk replacer ingredients

Milk replacers require unique ingredients because neonatal animals cannot digest typical feed ingredients like soybean meal, corn or typical byproduct ingredients. Milk replacers are produced using ingredients that are highly digestible to neonatal animals, nutrient dense and cost-effective for producers to use.

Traditionally, ingredients used in milk replacers are byproducts of milk manufacturing to produce butter or cheese. When butter is made, milk fat and water combine to produce butter and the co-product, called “skim milk” or “non-fat dried milk,” which contains both casein and whey proteins, lactose and minerals. When cheese is produced, the co-product is whey.

Cheese contains casein, butterfat, calcium and phosphorus while whey proteins and lactose are contained in whey, along with varying amounts of sodium, potassium and chloride, which may be added in the cheese-making process. Non-fat dried milk contains about 35% protein, and whey protein is concentrated to “whey protein concentrate” or “WPC,” which contains 34% protein through removal of lactose by crystallization or ultrafiltration.

Fats used in producing milk replacers include tallow and lard plus some vegetable fats such as coconut oil and limited amounts of vegetable oils. A simple milk replacer formulation could be made with whey; WPC; a blend of tallow, lard and coconut oil; and a premix containing vitamins and minerals. Increasing or decreasing the relative amounts of WPC, whey and fat can adjust the amount of protein and fat in the formula.

With calving season in full swing, a reader shared with us their go-to homemade milk replacer for newborn calves or lambs. And the best part of recipe is that the ingredients are easily obtained even at odd hours of the day or week. Here is their recipe:

Milk Replacer recipe
Milk Replacer recipe

Milk Replacer recipe

26 ounces of milk (use 1⁄2 canned milk and scant 1⁄2 can of water)

1 tablespoon cod liver oil or caster oil

1 tablespoon glucose or sugar

1 well beaten egg yolk

Mix well and give 1 1⁄2 to 2 ounces of milk per feeding and allow 2 hours between feedings for the first 24 hours.

Second day - 3 ounces per feeding

Third day - eliminate the egg yolk and the sugar, reduce the oil to 1 teaspoon and crush one child’s vitamin tablet in 1 feeding per day.

Keep the bottles and nipples very clean.

Do not overfeed.

For scours, give several teaspoons of peptobismol, a little more for a older animal and cut back on feed for a couple of days.

“This recipe is for lambs or calves, but I had to use it for a litter of newborn baby pigs once and it worked pretty well,” the reader said. “It’s a great option when it’s so stormy you can’t get to the vet, which you should still do as soon as possible.

“This recipe has been around for a long time and was shared with me years ago by a neighbor. We didn’t have paved roads then and getting to town was a lot harder than it is now.”

Thanks to this anonymous reader for the helpful tip, hopefully not many people will have to use it but, if you do, we hope it saves you in a bind.

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