Feeding the dairy calf up till weaning - Is it time to re-think?

D. Grove-White, G. Curtis, C. Argo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of successful heifer rearing on overall dairy farm profitability has often been overlooked in terms of future health and production of the adult herd. It is well recognised that achieving an average age at first calving (AFC) of 24 months has a considerable impact on profitability yet the majority of farms fail to achieve this target. There is increasing evidence that improved early life nutrition has direct effects in terms of improved growth and health allowing an AFC of 24 months to be achieved but furthermore it has indirect effects in terms of production and longevity. Increased early life milk feeding appears to be critical in this respect acting via epigenetic switching also referred to as "metabolic programming". Traditionally calf rearing has been carried out on a least cost basis with early transition to solid foods being a primary goal. We suggest that this policy is short-sighted and a radical re-think of calf rearing strategies is overdue with long term productivity being the ultimate goal. This will have benefits for both the farmer and the animals under his or her care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-61
Number of pages4
JournalCattle Practice
Issue numberPART1
Publication statusPrint publication - 19 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Ad lib feeding
  • Calf rearing
  • Epigenetics
  • Milk feeding


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