Impact of conventional or intensive milk replacer programs on Holstein heifer performance through six months of age and during first lactation

Mary Raeth, Hugh Chester-Jones, S. Hayes, J. Linn, R. Larson, D. Ziegler, B. Ziegler, N. Broadwater

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108 Scopus citations


The objectives were to evaluate the impact of conventional or intensive milk replacer (MR) feeding programs on heifer calf performance through 6 mo of age, age at first calving, and first lactation performance. At 3 (±1 d) d of age, 133 Holstein heifer calves from 3 commercial dairy farms were randomly assigned, within calf source, to a conventional [20% crude protein (CP), 20% fat] or intensive MR (28% CP, 18% fat). Milk replacer treatments and percent solids were 1) conventional nonacidified (CNA), 13.9%; 2) conventional acidified (CA), 13.9%; 3) modified intensive high solids (IHS), 16.7%; 4) modified intensive low solids (ILS), 12.5%; and 5) intensive high solids, high feeding (IHSHF), 16.7%. Calves were individually housed and remained on trial for 56 d. At 2 mo of age, heifers were grouped in pens by treatment with 6 heifers per pen (4 pens per treatment). An 18.1% CP grower concentrate mix (dry matter basis) was fed to heifers that received a conventional MR and a 21.2% CP grower concentrate mix was fed to heifers that received the intensive MR preweaning. Heifers were offered 2.45 kg/d (dry matter basis) of their respective grower concentrate mix for 112 d plus free access to hay and water. At approximately 24 wk of age, heifers were transported to a second-stage grower before returning to their respective farms approximately 1 mo before calving. First-lactation performance was determined using Dairy Herd Improvement Association records. The IHSHF treatment resulted in increased calf body weight and hip height during the preweaning and early postweaning (PEP) period and the postweaning heifer grower (PHG) period as compared with the conventional (CNA and CA) or modified intensive MR treatments (IHS and ILS). Calves receiving the IHS treatment were heavier at d 56 of the PEP period compared with the conventional or ILS treatments; however, this growth advantage was not maintained in the PHG period. Feed cost per kilogram of gain during the PEP period was lowest for CNA and CA, intermediate for IHS and ILS, and highest for the IHSHF treatment. There was no effect of MR feeding program on first-lactation performance; however, heifers that received the IHSHF MR preweaning calved 27.5 d earlier than those fed a conventional MR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the staff at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center Heifer Research Facility for data collection and daily care of animals; Hubbard Feeds Inc. and Milk Products for financial support; and Bombay, Clay View, and Wolf Creek dairies for providing lactation data.


  • Calf nutrition
  • Growth
  • Lactation performance
  • Milk replacer


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