Calf Milk Replacers

Dairy farmers feed calves milk replacers so they can sell the cow’s milk. Whey protein is the major milk component in milk replacers, and has also become the most expensive ingredient thanks to the popularity of whey protein for human body building.

Jim Drackley is a dairy nutritionist at the University of Illinois. He says they’ve been working on several protein source alternatives. The most recent study shows they can replace about one-third of the whey protein with plasma protein from bovine blood along with some additional amino acids, with no loss of health and performance.

"And in fact, the plasma proteins may have some additional health benefits to the young calves because they contain the antibody or immunoglobulin fraction of the blood proteins, and so they may have some local effects within the digestive system that help the young calf withstand various agents that cause scours," says Drackley.

 Drackley says plasma protein has been used in swine diets for many years, and is finally getting more attention for use in cattle.

"I think the milk replacer manufacturers like the plasma protein, like what it is doing in the field. As I say, it’s a very good protein in terms of its handling qualities for putting in milk replacers, better than some of the vegetable protein sources, for example," he says. "And, again it seems to have very good results in very young calves, as long as we account for the amino acid profile differences."

Drackley says plasma protein is relatively more expensive than some other sources, but it is economical compared to whey.

Learn more about calf milk replacement alternatives