The role of fat in dairy calf nutrition

Increasing fat levels in early life nutrition

Young dairy calves have a relatively low percentage of body fat and therefore require a diet with high amounts of energy early in life.

Calf milk replacer

To provide the higher levels of energy required for growth, the amount of calf milk replacer fed per day or the energy density of the CMR fed will have to be increased.

One option is to increase lactose levels, but this results in an increase of osmolality, which can be detrimental to the calf. LifeStart research has shown that calves fed according to LifeStart principles are better prepared to handle fat. Trials in which calves were fed an energised calf milk replacer (CMR) with increased amounts of fat have shown similar growth rates but better faecal scores and a lower incidence of diarrhoea for calves fed ECM compared to calves fed a traditional CMR.

Calf starter

Trials with an energised calf starter (ECS) containing extruded pellets with fat have resulted in additional weight gains.

Articles about fat metabolism

Dairy calves regulate their intake of calf milk replacer on the basis of energy density
Partial exchange of lactose with fat in calf milk replacer has no impact on the performance of dairy calves but they express fewer signs of hunger at weaning.
Energised calf milk replacer in a LifeStart feeding schedule leads to higher pre-weaning growth

Feeding ECM with 25% fat resulted in 100 g/day ADG extra compared to feeding a CMR with 18% fat

Energized calf milk with a composition close to whole milk improves faecal consistency

Energized calf milk with an elevated level has a composition close to whole milk. It improves faecal consistency without negatively affecting performance, feed intake or digestibility.

LifeStart Pillars

Colostrum Management
Weaning Strategies
Calf to heifer

LifeStart Themes

Metabolic Programming
Glucose metabolism
Role of fat in calf nutrition
Lactobalance, hydration, and osmoregulation
Most LifeStart science articles on this site relate to a particular stage of the life of a calf or dairy cow. However, some general themes are not related to a particular stage of life. For a full understanding of LifeStart science, please review the information related to the 4 themes above: