With the price of cattle staying high, even with another case of BSE or Mad Cow showing up in California, I have quite a few calls about bottle raising calves again.
First, we have to find a good milk replacer. This is one with only milk products in it. The way you tell which one has only milk products in it is to read the ingredient list. Not the guaranteed analysis. The guaranteed analysis only tells you how much crude protein, fat and other stuff is in it. The main reason for this is that calves cannot digest soy protein until they are ruminating and eating grain. This will not happen until later in life. Soy protein will go through the stomachs of a calf and end up in the large bowel undigested. When you have a large amount of undigested protein in the large bowel, osmosis is reversed and water is pulled into the bowel. Now, when you have a large amount of water in the bowel of a calf it is going to come out as scours or diarrhea. Therefore, we need to get this milk digested in the abomasum where it is supposed to be taking place.
Milk is digested in the main stomach of all animals. The abomasum is the true stomach of the calf. The abomasum is just like our stomach and new born calves are simple monogastric (one stomach) animals just like us until they start eating grain. When calves start eating grain, they inoculate the other three stomachs and become ruminants. To avoid using the other three stomachs a calf must tilt its head up curl its tongue and suck. This closes a groove through the first three stomachs and takes the milk past them into the fourth stomach, the abomasum. Without this action, the milk will fall into the rumen and reticulum where it will just sit and clabber. The rumen and reticulum are the first two stomachs of a ruminant like cattle.
The next step in choosing a milk replacer is the amount of fat. I like at least 21 percent or preferably 24 percent. I start with a simple rule of thumb. A calf must drink 10 percent of its body weight per day in milk. So, if your calf weighs 80 pounds and a pint is a pound world around, then your calf must drink 8 pints which is 1 gallon of milk per day. This is just plain simple country boy math. This can also be transposed to the amount of good quality colostrum a calf needs the first 24 hours of life.
The main points of this article to take with you are; buy a milk replacer that is made from all milk by-products and feed 10 percent of the calf’s weight daily with a bottle and nipple.
Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, is owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark.


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