Modern day concentrated whey protein based milk powders can deliver top notch calf performance thanks to careful processing and delivery of essential bio-nutrients
It is time to debunk the myths around whey-based milk powders and take the time to select the right quality calf milk replacer (CMR) to maximise the potential of your heifer replacements, says Ian Watson, global technical manager at Volac.
He believes there is much to be gained from choosing modern-day, whey-based calf milk replacers.
He says: “Whey powders historically started out with a poor reputation, but advances in processing and research means whey is now a go-to protein source.” There is still the perception among some farmers and advisers that skim milk powder is best as it forms a casein clot in the abomasum, which breaks down over a period of time.
This is perceived as beneficial to calf performance.
However, recent research suggests there is no difference in growth and calf health when calves are fed high-quality skimmed or whey-based products (see ‘Whey vs skim trial’ panel).
This could be attractive to farmers considering the fact skim products can be higher in price.
Mr Watson says it is also important to recognise that skim products may not be the same as they once were.
In some cases, skim powder inclusion rates have dropped from 60% to around 10%.
“There can be wide variation, so it’s always important to check the amount of skim included in the powder as this directly affects the clotting effect of the casein,” he says.
Whey also has a number of additional benefits not found in skim products.
For example, the whey fraction of colostrum and whole milk contains valuable bioactive proteins, such as immunuglobulins and lactoferrin.
Volac filters and concentrates up the liquid whey protein fraction of milk and retains the key proteins, fats, sugars and other bioactive components.
The resultant unique ingredient is Imunopro®, which is included in its CMR range.
This concentrated whey protein and phospholipid base material is packed with vital amino acids, lactoferrin and immunoglobulins.
While immunoglobulins are absorbed by the calf’s gut in the first 24 hours to provide immunity, they also help rapid gut development and lay a solid foundation for fast, efficient growth.
Lactoferrin is also important for the development of the immune system and has antibacterial properties in the gut.
Mr Watson says it is important to recognise that not all whey powders are produced in such a way and as such, not all wheys are created equal.
He urges farmers to check with their CMR supplier as to how their products are processed.
“It’s important to understand that processing can impact on the raw material and the digestibility of that material and the nutrition delivered,” he explains.
For example, low temperature processing helps safeguard essential amino acids and aids digestibility.
Checking exactly what type of whey is included is also an important process.
“What is declared on the label? Is it delactosed whey, whey powder or whey protein? All three originate from whey in cheese, but have been processed differently,” he says.
Milk replacer (26% crude protein; 16% fat; mixed at 150g/litre) fed at five litres/day (day five-10), seven litres/day (day 11-34), five litres/day (day 35-49), two litres/day (day 49-55). Ad lib calf starter and water available from birth with the addition of chopped straw from day 56.
Source: AFBI, Hillsborough, Northern Ireland (2019)
FATS AND OILS
SODIUM, PHOSPHORUS AND CALCIUM
Farmers can expect similar calf performance when feeding either high levels of whey-based or skimmed milk powder, according to recent research out of Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough.
The trial aimed to bring historic calf milk replacer research from the 1990s into the 21st century by comparing performance of whey and skimmed milk powders fed at modern day feeding rates.
Eighty Holstein Friesian calves were fed up to 1,050g of milk solids per day and growth rates and disease incidence were monitored up to 10 weeks of age. The results showed that the presence of the skim, and, therefore, the clotting effect of casein, was not needed for calf performance.
Volac research scientist Dr Jessica Cooke says: “There was no significant difference between the different milk replacer formulations.
If the important milk components are processed at low temperatures and with careful manufacturing techniques, both skim and whey proteins will be highly digestible by the milk fed pre-weaned calf and will deliver good performance.”
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