Take your time to ensure healthy rumen development

LifeStart Pillars

Colostrum Management
Weaning Strategies
Calf to heifer

LifeStart weaning strategies for calves

Intensive milk feeding programs require time for good rumen development. Several elements of the approach for weaning calves have been studied as part of the LifeStart program. Based on this work and the work of others, it’s clear that the following points are important:

  • Calves should eat at least 1.5 kg of starter feed before they are weaned
  • Weaning should not take place too early, the calf weaning age should be at least 10 weeks
  • Milk feeding should be lowered after 3-4 weeks, before finally stopping milk feeding
  • Avoid stressful procedures such as de-budding or re-grouping at the time of weaning calves

Taking the above points into account, a LifeStart feeding program for dairy calves allows farmers to aim for a bodyweight of 100 kg at 10 weeks of age.

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Trouw Nutrition is dedicated to optimize calf rearing principles by developing science based solutions that will enable dairy farmers to produce in a more sustainable way. Together with our global network of scientific institutes, we share solutions to deal with common challenges of the dairy industry.

In 2014 Trouw Nutrition initiated the Kempenshof LifeStart trial in which calves are monitored from birth until the end of their productive life. This trial still continues today.

Our team will share their latest findings and results as well as other important information related to calf rearing from around the world.




LifeStart studies on weaning strategies

Gradual weaning improves the growth of dairy calves

The combination of feeding elevated planes of nutrition and weaning at a later age using a step-down method, yields both higher body weight and less stress.

A delayed weaning age improves growth and reduces stress

Calves weaned at 8 weeks instead of 6 weeks were better able to cope with the transition from milk to solid feed and had higher growth rates during and after weaning.

Weaning at a later age reduces the risk of gastro-intestinal problems

Weaning at a later age protects the digestive tract from the increase in permeability that comes with weaning. This reduces the risk of calves developing diarrhoea.

Optimal weaning practices in dairy calves fed high planes of nutrition

Calf weaning leads to physical stress. Gradual weaning, along with a high plane of nutrition prior to weaning, improves calf health and lifetime performance.

Avoiding a weaning dip results in optimal performance of dairy calves

Paired housing, a greater milk intake prior to weaning, provision of hay along with the starter feed, and gradual weaning from milk to solid feed are key to optimising weaning.

Automated feeders reduce costs and accommodate for individual calf needs

Weaning calves based on their ability to eat starter feed instead of on a fixed age improves growth, reduces the weaning dip and reduces costs.

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: