Come on Dr. Hazel, don’t you think we know how to mix replacer by now?!? We’ve been raising calves for over 10 years!

The longer we do something, the more likely we are to get in a rut it seems. I know my brain works that way. As a kid on the farm, I would always mix replacer by the scoop. Each calf got one “scoop” of replacer and we didn’t think anything of it. Surely, they included the scoop because that’s supposed to be the best way to measure it, right?

Now as a veterinarian, I’ve learned that everyone’s measure of a “scoop” is very, very different. I’ve seen anywhere from 10 ounce scoops to 13 ounce scoops, all with the same standard cup that comes in milk replacer bags. Because milk replacer is a powder, it can be easily packed into a cup, which really changes the concentration of your end product – what the calf consumes.

Variations in milk replacer concentration are indeed important!

1. Nutrient Concentration – Calves need calories and nutrients to grow and fight disease. Consistent nutrition is so important, but especially this time of year when calves utilize  extra nutrients to stay warm. Additionally, calves that are already sick need 150 – 200% more energy to fight disease. This is all the more reason why we cannot have nutrient deficient  mixes reach our calves’ milk pails.  2. Total Solids (TS%) – The concentration or total solids is the balance of replacer powder to water. The end product of milk replacer should be between 12 – 15% solids. Any changes in  total solids from feeding to feeding can predispose calves to clostridium death and predispose them to scours. You should aim for the same total solids percentage EVERY time you feed.

How do we reduce variation in concentration? To reduce variation in the amount of powder to water ratio, it’s really important weigh the powder. Unbelievably, this is not as much of a pain as you may think.

1. Use a Scale A. Have a scale (either a hanging or platform scale) which has been tared with your measuring pail. B. Add replacer powder to the pail until you reach the right weight. C. Add the powder to your water. 2. Use a Refractometer – Brix refractometers were designed to be used to measure the water to sugar ratio of wine. These also work very well for measuring the ratio of milk powder to  water. To utilize a refractometer, you should add your final solution to the viewing screen. With replacer powder, what the screen says is what the solution is. (However, note that when  measuring TS% in waste milk, you need to use a different equation.) If your solution is off, add milk powder or water to get your solution back to your goal TS%.

Want to know more or have follow-up questions? Let us know if the VMC or PLS team can help you get your calves on a consistent plane of nutrition. Give us a call at 1-800-522-3276.

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