As the price of skim milk powder rises, calf rearers are being urged to carefully review the dairy protein they feed to their calves.
With steady price increases over the past year, and a recent sharp increase, many farmers may already be exploring alternative pre-weaning options for calf feeding.
Young animal technical specialist Dr Jessica Cooke, of dairy nutrition company Volac, explains: “Skim milk powder is simply whole milk with the fat removed, whilst whey protein is a co-product of cheese production.
“For example, at Volac’s factory in Wales, incoming whey from cheese manufacturers using milk from British farms is concentrated through a unique, low temperature ultrafiltration and evaporation process.
“This concentrated milk protein (Imunopro) contains beneficial ingredients (found naturally in milk and colostrum) that help support the immune system, growth and development of the young calf.”
Milk replacers containing a high content of skim result in clot formation in the acid conditions of the calf’s stomach, she explains, whereas milk replacers with whey as the main source of milk protein do not form a clot and pass easily into the small intestine for digestion.
“Despite these differences, whey protein concentrate and skim milk powder are comparable sources of dairy protein in milk replacer products,” she adds.
However, she stresses that good calf performance depends not only on the type of dairy protein, but on the quality and processing of the ingredients used in the milk replacer.
Although skim and whey-based milk replacers can deliver excellent calf performance when processed under carefully controlled conditions, poorly processed milk-derived protein can have very poor digestibility and increase the risk of health issues, she explains.
“The key is to evaluate value for money carefully when purchasing a calf milk replacer and only buy a precision-formulated product with a proven track record of performance.”