Glycerol as a partial replacement for lactose in milk replacer for young dairy calves

R. A. Ebert-Allen, G. M. Willis, J. K. Drackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glycerol (glycerin) is increasingly available from biodiesel manufacture and edible oil refining and it has been used successfully in diets for chickens, pigs, and adult cattle; however, less information is available on its nutritional value in young calves. Our objective was to determine the effects on calf growth and health when glycerol replaced a portion of lactose in milk replacer. Holstein calves (12 male, 12 female) born at the University of Illinois dairy unit were assigned alternately to 1 of 2 treatments (24 calves total): control milk replacer or milk replacer supplemented with 15% glycerol in replacement of lactose. The experimental base milk replacer contained greater protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins so that when glycerol was added, the composition would be the same as that of the control, except that glycerol replaced some lactose. Calves were housed in individual hutches bedded with straw, and water was freely available. Starter was offered beginning on d 36. The amount of milk replacer offered was reduced by half on d 43, and calves were weaned at d 49. Calves were fed milk replacers twice daily from d 3 of life. Milk replacers contained 28% protein (all from whey proteins), 2.6% lysine, and 15% fat. Control milk replacer contained 40% lactose, and the glycerol milk replacer contained 25% lactose. Both replacers were reconstituted to 15% solids. Glycerol (liquid) was added to reconstituted base milk replacer at each feeding. During wk 1, milk replacers were fed at a rate of 0.25 Mcal/kg of metabolic body weight (BW) (about 1.5% of BW daily as powder, or approximately 675 g/d) and from wk 2 to 6 at 0.30 Mcal/kg of metabolic BW (about 2% of BW daily, or approximately 900 to 1,200 g/d). Measurements of BW and stature were made weekly through d 56. Calf BW and average daily gain through d 35 (0.66 vs. 0.65 kg/d for controls and glycerol, respectively) did not differ significantly between treatments. Stature measurements (withers height, body length, heart girth) and measures of health (fecal scores, medical treatments) did not differ between treatments. Under the conditions of this experiment, glycerol was an acceptable replacement for at least 37.5% of the total lactose in milk replacer (15% of the formula) if economically favorable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-113
Number of pages4
JournalJDS Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Glycerol as a partial replacement for lactose in milk replacer for young dairy calves'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this