Aim for an average

daily gain of at least

800 grams

3-49 DAYS

This stage will be the fundament for future health and performance.

Other rearing dairy calves topics

Around calving
0-2 DAYS
3-49 DAYS
8-10 WEEKS
5 months until breeding

After 3 days, dairy calves have to be fed sufficient amounts of calf milk replacer in order to achieve optimum growth and to develop a healthy digestive tract and an active immune system. This phase is very important to achieve the optimum metabolic development of calves. Solid feed has to be introduced gradually to ensure optimum energy intake while stimulating rumen development and fermentation. Aim for an average daily gain of at least 800 grams. To achieve this, milk feeding schedules should be as follows:

  • Feed milk 2–3 times per day
  • Increase the amount of milk to 7–8 litres per day in week 2
  • Ensure the dairy calf is fed around 1.2 kg of dry milk solids per day at peak level
  • Start reducing milk volume in week 7
  • Finish milk feeding and wean the calf completely in week 10.

From day 3-49, the window of opportunity for metabolic programming is wide open. Farmers have to make sure calves develop well, because this early stage of life is essential for the development of all organs and will be the fundament for future health and performance.

Milk feeding level is a key factor in udder development

Already in 2005, research by Brown et al [15] showed that as a result of metabolic programming, the volume of milk replacer given to Holstein dairy calves in the first 8 weeks has a huge effect on udder development. More recent work[16] confirmed this correlation between feed intake in the first phase of life and udder development. Doubling the milk feed intake resulted in improved total mammary weight, and also other organs like the liver grew faster.


Birth weight (kg) 39.2 39.7
Daily CMR intake (ltr) 4 8
Average daily gain (gram) 390 820
Liver weight (d54, gram) 1,350 2,350
Parenchyma weight (d54, gram) 1.10 6.48
Parenchyma (% of bodyweight) 0,002% 0,008%

Grasp your share of genetic potential

Calf feeding schedules with elevated levels of calf milk replacer offer a major opportunity to realise markedly stronger udder development and thus to make optimal use of the genetic potential of dairy calves. Many studies support our Sprayfo vision: LifeStart sets Life Performance. The LifeStart programme therefore includes feeding higher volumes of milk at a balanced concentration, with a clear focus on the first 6-7 weeks.

Do you want to know which calf feeding schedule fits your farm best? Contact our specialists for a tailored advice or download here our general calf feeding recommendations.



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