When calves are first introduced to the autofeeder, it can take time for them to increase their consumption. Learn what might be causing this slow transition, and how to get them quickly consuming more milk.
FAQ: Milk Consumption
Question: When I introduce my calves to the autofeeder it takes them nearly a week to consume more than 4-6L of milk per day. Why won’t they increase their milk intake more quickly?
Answer: When calves are “backgrounded” (fed and housed individually) they commonly drink from a bottle and in most cases are fed twice a day. Bottle size is usually two or three L (quarts). If calves are backgrounded for a week or more, are they learning that the milk is available only twice a day?
The greatest success in transitioning calves occurs with several key points.
- Move them to the autofeeder when they have a strong appetite. If there’s a good maternity program and newborn care, most calves are ready to move to the autofeeder at 3 – 4 days of age.
- Move them in small groups of 3 – 5 at one time. Feed them the bottle in the morning and move them in the afternoon. Lead them to the nipple with great patience and use the pump to start the milk. Other calves that have been in the group for a few days will frequently “train” the new arrivals. In many cases, it may not be necessary to show them the nipple again.
- Don’t overtrain calves by leading them to the nipple more than once a day, or for more than a day or two. In these cases, the calves think that the person must be present for the calf to receive a meal.