Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Extension in your Community > Benton > County Agriculture Educator > Articles > Are Your Dairy Calves Getting Enough Starter?

print icon email icon share icon

Are Your Dairy Calves Getting Enough Starter?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
December 23, 2014        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Are Your Dairy Calves Getting Enough Starter?
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (12/24/14) —Every dairy farmer knows the importance of keeping calves well fed in the winter.  While we spend a lot of time focused on colostrum and milk, calf starter is just as important in keeping calves growing and strong in the winter.

To keep calves growing all year long, regardless of the temperature outside, it is important that calf feeders pay attention to the details and closely monitor their feeding practices.  Here are some simple tips to help calf feeders make sure that the details of feeding calves don’t fall through the cracks.

First, know how much calf starter is actually needed.  Measuring calf starter is the best way to ensure that the correct amount is being fed. A simple trick is marking a feed scoop or other sanitized container with the desired amount.  Paying close attention to how much calves are eating allows calf feeders to notice when a calf’s intake is off. This allows for more immediate action to be taken if the calf is sick.  Keep in mind that calf feeding needs are not universal across all operations. Breed, weather and season, and the amount of milk or milk replacer fed can all affect the amount of calf starter needed to achieve optimal growth. As a result it is important that calf feeders learn and apply what works best on the specific operation.

Second, freshness is a must.  Simply topping off calf starter buckets without routinely discarding leftover feed is a practice that is strongly discouraged, as this may lead to moldy feed on the bottom of buckets. Mold can result from moisture in the air, precipitation or even the calf’s muzzle.  If mold is present, calf starter consumption may be decreased and may even result in digestive upsets.

Lastly, don’t forget about water.  Water plays an important role in calf starter consumption. If calves don’t have enough water to help them consume calf starter, this may hinder their appetite. Calf feeders should be aware that as calves get older, water consumption increases. Lack of adequate water for older calves may lead to slug feeding of grain and subsequent digestive issues. Even in the winter, calves should be provided with fresh, clean water several times a day.

To keep calves growing and developing to become profitable members of the lactating herd, routinely evaluate your operation’s feeding practices and make sure that all employees are on the same page.

If you have questions about feeding calves, contact the Stearns County Extension Office at 320-255-6169, Benton County Extension Office at 320-968-5077, or Morrison County Extension Office at 320-632-0161.


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy