New research will revolutionize the way we feed calves

29 January 2020

New findings from Trouw Nutrition’s LifeStart calf research programme highlight opportunities to reformulate calf milk replacers.

The LifeStart programme is a major research commitment which follows the development of heifer calves right through to the milking herd.

This research has highlighted the key role of early life calf nutrition in metabolic programming to unlock genetic potential. It has demonstrated that feeding calves an elevated ‘LifeStart’ plane of nutrition (≥ 800 g powder/calf/day) has a significant impact on lifetime performance.



The initial findings redefined how much milk replacer to feed, as feeding higher levels has a direct effect on organ development, gene expression and milk yield in the first lactation. But, this is only part of the story, it is also important to consider the quality of milk replacer. Many current formulations of milk replacer are not designed and optimized for feeding at higher levels, which increases the risk of over or underfeeding specific nutrients.
A quality milk replacer that supports growth and maintains health is key and the findings of Trouw Nutrition’s research means we produce a high quality product which is completely designed for optimal development, resilience to disease and longevity.


In developing Milkivit Energizer, whole milk was used as the biological reference, after all it is specifically produced to meet calves’ requirements.
Comparing the nutrient content of cows milk with calf milk replacer, most milk replacers are lower in fat and higher in lactose that cow’s milk (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Comparison of nutrient content between cow’s milk and conventional calf milk replacer (CMR)

Many calf milk replacers focus on the level of protein as this is thought to be the first limiting nutrient. However, Trouw Nutrition’s research shows that it is energy, and importantly the quality of the energy source, that is limiting and for this reason we have focused on the energy provided by fats and oils to ensure requirements are met.
While energy is the driver, it is also vital to feed sufficient protein and to ensure the protein is highly digestible. The LifeStart project also highlights the importance of formulating to the essential amino acids lysine, methionine and threonine.


Another key difference between many calf milk replacers and cow’s milk is osmolality. Osmolality is the sum of sugars (like lactose) and minerals (like sodium and chlorine). In simple terms, it is desirable for a calf milk replacer to be as close to cow’s milk as possible – which is isotonic.
A calf milk replacer with high osmolality will draw more fluid through the gut wall from the blood. This increases the risk of digestive upsets, scours and reduced performance, particularly at higher levels of feeding.



The outcome of Trouw Nutrition’s research has been to look at the makeup of calf milk replacers in a totally different way. Energized Calf Milk has been developed using whole milk as the reference and is specially formulated to ensure optimal nutrient supply when feeding high rates. It is designed for farmers looking for optimal performance from their calves.
The high energy levels supply 10% more metabolisable energy than typical calf milk replacers, supporting the growth and development of calves.
Milkivit Energizer is a key component of metabolic programming and supports the LifeStart objectives of optimal development, resilience to disease and longevity.