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Accelerated Dairy Calf-rearing Programs

By Thomas H. Herdt, DVM, MS, DACVN, DACVIM, Professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, Michigan State University

In accelerated calf rearing programs, larger quantities of liquid feeds are fed during the preweaning period, and larger proportions of concentrates are fed during the growing period. Weaning is later, and solid feed consumption is delayed (relative to traditional programs). After weaning, forage is not offered until heifers are >3 mo old. Dietary protein concentrations during the pre- and postweaning periods are increased (relative to traditional programs) to assure adequate lean gain and to avoid excessive fattening. Rates of gain can be as high as 1 kg/day, with heifers entering the milking herd at 22–23 mo old. Close monitoring is necessary to assure that heifers have adequate frame development and do not become excessively fat.