Effects of feeding frequency and protein source in milk replacer for Holstein calves

K. D. Grice, K. M. Glosson, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whey proteins are a primary component of milk replacers (MR) and are considered the gold standard for calves. Alternative protein sources may decrease MR cost if calf performance is similar. A blend of bovine plasma protein and modified wheat protein might be a good partial replacement for whey protein. Usually MR is fed twice daily, but feeding 3 times daily might increase efficiency of nutrient use, especially with MR containing alternate proteins. Therefore, our objective was to determine the effects of 2 MR, containing either entirely whey protein (CON) or a combination of whey protein, bovine plasma protein, and modified wheat protein (WBP), when fed in either 2 or 3 meals daily on calf growth and health. Female and male Holstein calves (n = 103) housed in individual hutches were studied for the first 63 d of life, with additional measurements obtained at wk 12 of life in group housing. The MR contained 25% CP, 17% fat, and a Lys:Met ratio of 3.1:1. Individual treatments arose from the 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of MR formulation and frequency of feeding. After colostrum, calves were fed MR (12.5% solids) at daily rates of dry matter dependent on age. Amounts were as follows: d 3 to 10 = 0.52 kg/d (2× = 0.259 kg, 3× = 0.173 kg per feeding); d 11 to 20 = 0.68 kg/d (2× = 0.341 kg, 3× = 0.227 kg per feeding); d 21 to 42 = 0.84 kg/d (2× = 0.42 kg, 3× = 0.28 kg per feeding); d 43 to 46, 47, 49, and 51 = 0.42 kg/d, with both 2× and 3× changed to 1 feeding daily and skip days (d 48 and 50) between where calves were not given MR; and d 52 = calves weaned. Starter was fed and intake was measured from d 1 until d 63. Intakes, health scores, attitude scores, and fecal scores were measured daily. Body weight (BW) and growth measurements were obtained weekly until wk 8 and again at wk 12. Blood samples were obtained at 0, 24, and 48 h and then on d 5, 14, 28, and 42 of age. Starter intake was greater for calves fed WBP versus CON during wk 7 to 9. Final BW and hip width at wk 12 were greater for calves fed WBP than for calves fed CON. Calves fed 2× had greater mean and final BW to wk 6 and greater feed efficiency (gain:feed ratio) than calves fed 3×. Blood variables supported the generally similar growth outcomes. Health outcomes did not differ between diets or feeding frequencies. Overall, calves fed WBP had increased starter intake and greater BW gains during wk 7 to 12 than calves fed CON, and calves fed 2× had increased growth and feed efficiency compared with those fed 3×.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10048-10059
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • feeding frequency
  • growth
  • plasma protein
  • wheat protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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