How much starter grain should a pre-weaned dairy calf be eating?
Moore, Dale A.
Sischo, William M.
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Pre-weaned dairy calves need starter grain to initiate rumen development. Bacteria in the rumen begin to utilize nutrients from the starter grain and produce volatile fatty acids that assist with rumen development and feed intakes. There are guidelines on how much grain a calf should be eating in order to have a functional rumen and be weaned. The rule of thumb is that calves should be consuming about 2 pounds (about 4 cups) of starter per day for three days in a row to be weaned onto all-solid feed. Although calves can safely drink up to 20% of their body weight in milk or milk replacer, many dairy calves are still limit-fed their liquid diet and need to consume adequate amounts of starter grain in order to grow. To maximize starter grain consumption, it is essential to understand how much calves will eat and what factors might impede consumption of starter grain.