How to Choose High Quality Milk Replacers for Cattle

Friday, January 29, 2021 at 8:57 AM

There are many reasons why Milk replacers for cattle are recommended over whole milk. Research shows that the live weight gains are much higher (+16%) in calves which are fed quality milk replacer compared to whole milk. It is also acidified and consistent of quality which improves digestion and decreases any risks of diarrhea.

When you choose high quality milk replacer, it has lower levels of fat but higher levels of digestive milk proteins. This is a more optimal composition that encourages feed intake which can lead to earlier weaning. Feeding whole milk increases the risk of transmitting diseases such as Johne’s disease, Salmonellosis or E.coli.

There are different types of Milk replacers for cattle available in the market. So it can be difficult to make the right choice. However, if you know what ingredients to look for in the replacers, it would become easier to provide the right feed to your cattle. This guide provides you information about the ingredients you should look for in the replacers.

Crude Protein
Your cattle needs protein to supply the essential amino acids required for tissue synthesis. When choosing cattle premix, you should evaluate protein in terms of:
Source (this affects bio-availability)
For example: Whey is a good source of high quality proteins.
Soy flour contains low quality protein, which is poorly digestible and can result in diarrhea.
Amount. Milk replacer should contain approximately 20-22% protein.
Anti-nutritional factors (ANF). Presence of ANFs reduce animal performance.

Crude Fat
Crude fat provides a high source of energy. It can supply more than twice the energy provided by carbohydrates. It also supplies essential fatty acids. So when choosing Milk replacers for cattle, make sure that it has the required amount of crude fat (14-18%). Especially, the calves raised in colder conditions require higher amount of energy.

Crude Fiber
The presence of crude fiber in milk replacers has traditionally been considered as a measure of quality, but that is not the key factor any longer. However, you should consider the source of crude fiber from the ingredients list. If there is more than 0.15% of this fiber, it means that the source is plant protein. However, If crude fiber content is less than 0.15%, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no plant protein. Feeding more than 0.15% fiber is not recommended.

Other Ingredients
There are many other essential ingredients that should be ensured in the Milk replacers for cattle. This includes the following:

  • Animal Fat & Vegetable Oil: These ingredients are sourced from the lipid part in both vegetable and animal tissue.
  • Dried Milk Protein (Casein): It is sourced from skimmed milk and concentrated through coagulation of milk.
  • Animal Plasma: This is a highly concentrated source of protein and is sourced from fresh whole blood after removal of red and white blood cells. The plasma is then dried.
  • Dried Whey: This is the fluid drained from the processing of cheese, which is then dried. It has high levels of lactose and lactalbumin proteins.
  • Dried Whey Protein Concentrate: Ultra filtration is used to concentrate the protein in whey.
  • Dried Whey Product: Some types of lactose are removed from whey and this increases the percentage of protein and minerals.
  • Dried Skimmed Milk: In this case the fat is removed from the milk and it has dried minerals, protein and lactose.

Some of the other ingredients to check and ensure in cattle premix include lecithin, polyoxyethylene glycol, DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, emulsifier, and vitamin/mineral supplements.


Traditionally, clotting or lack of it with rennet of Milk replacers for cattle was considered as a measure of quality. This is because most of the formulations now use whey protein in place of casein protein or skim milk. Whey protein doesn’t clot when tested with rennet. So you will have to consider the above-mentioned factors when choosing the right quality of milk replacers.

Evaluating Dry Powder Milk Replacers
Consider the following points when evaluating the dry powder Milk replacers for cattle.
It is cream or light tan in color and doesn’t have foreign materials or lumps. When the powder has orange or orange-brown color and has a caramelized/burned smell, it means that it has passed through Maillard Browning. It is recommended not to choose ‘browned’ milk dispensers because it can mean some loss of delectableness and nutrient quality. When it comes to smell, dry powder should be anything from pleasant to bland. If it smells like grass, gasoline, paint or clay, it indicates that the fat may have become rancid.

Mixing
The cattle premix should enter the solution with ease. Make sure it is mixed at the recommended temperature and keep mixing until there are no clamps. Insoluble ingredients settle at the bottom of the solution when you stop stirring. This layer represents fiber, medications and minerals. If there are high amounts of insoluble content, it may not be accepted for feeding involving nipple bottles or automatic feeders. It is important not to over-agitate because it can form excess foaming. It can also cause separation of fat product and create a greasy layer.

So consider all these factors when choosing the right quality of Milk replacers for cattle. Make sure all the essential ingredients are present to ensure proper growth and development.