Sjaak de Kleijne, young cattle specialist at Agrifirm in The Netherlands, was able to answer that question without too much thought. “The concentration of powder in the powdered milk. The advice is to add 150 g of milk powder for every litre of powdered milk. However, more than half of all dairy farmers make the mistake of mixing 150 g of milk powder with one litre of water.” That increases the total quantity of milk because the 150 g still have to be added. “In 10 litres of powdered milk there should be 1.5 kg of powder. If you add those 1.5 kg to 10 litres, the overall outcome is around 16.3 litres of powdered milk,” calculated Sjaak. “That places the concentration not at 150 g, but at 140 g per litre of powdered milk. In other words, a feed level that is too low for the calves to achieve their growth target, and at which the calf’s resistance is put at risk.” So let me give you the recommendation one more time: mix 150 g of milk powder to produce one litre of powdered milk. Or for those farmers unwilling or unable to make the change: mix one litre of water with 175 g of milk powder. And to make sure you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s: regularly weigh the amount of powder you add. Have you actually added the amount you intended?
Remember the temperature
The temperature of powdered milk is another key issue. The best drinking temperature for calves is 39-40 degrees. “It is very difficult to measure accurately by dipping your fingers in the milk,” explained Sjaak, based on personal experience. “For example, in the winter, 40 degrees feels completely different from 40 degrees in the summer.” So make sure you measure. Another useful tool is a tap with fitted thermostat. “If you set the temperature to around 43 degrees, the water temperature will always be perfect. The higher temperature takes account of the fact that from the moment of preparing the powdered milk, you will have to cover a distance of up to 50 metres before you reach the calves, by which time the milk will have cooled slightly.”