Effect of milk replacer feeding program on performance of Belgian Blue double-muscled rearing calves
One hundred and four Belgian Blue double-muscled calves were divided into four groups to examine the effects of different milk replacer (MR) programs. Calves in treatment group 1 received a MR diet reconstituted at 125 g/l, fed at 10 % of their initial live weight in two meals daily. Weaning occurred abruptly at a concentrate intake of 0.5 kg/d. Treatment 2 was similar to treatment 1, except that weaning occurred at a concentrate intake of 0.75 kg/d. Treatment 3 was similar to treatment 2, except that MR was fed once daily at 5 % of initial body weight from a concentrate intake of 0.5 kg/d onwards. Treatment 4 was similar to treatment 3, except that MR at a concentration of 200 g/l was fed once daily from the third week until a concentrate intake of 0.5 kg/d. Similar concentrates and grass hay were fed. Pre-weaning gain averaged 0.51, 0.57, 0.56 and 0.53 kg/d, respectively ( P < 0.05; SEM: 0.01). Daily nutrient intake was lowest for treatment 1. No effect on diarrhoea was found. Post-weaning gain did not differ among treatments. Daily gain during the whole rearing period (20 weeks) averaged 0.83 kg and was not affected by treatment. Calves assigned to treatment 1 had a lower daily intake of MR, while feed efficiency tended to be worse. Weaning can be successfully accelerated by skipping over a meal when concentrate intake exceeded 0.5 kg/d, or by combining one MR meal daily with an increased concentration of 200 g/l from an age of three weeks onwards.