There are many ways to feed and rear calves successfully and the “best” way depends on what is available and what your goals are.  A dairy farmer with surplus colostrum may want to pursue a high milk volume system.  A calf rearer looking to sell calves at 100 kg will be rearing to a budget and will probably use an early rumen development system.

Colostrum and whole milk are always better than milk powders for rearing calves. Calf milk powders that curd should be used for younger calves. Non-curding and budget powders should only be used for older calves.

Calf growth rate is determined by the energy intake of the calf. Grass and hay contribute little to the energy intake of the young calf. On the other hand, calf meals are important for developing a calf’s rumen. Weaning weight and age at weaning largely depends on the milk/meal feeding system used but can be as early as 5 weeks of age in calves reared on an early rumen development system.  Keeping weaned calves growing as feed quality deteriorates into the summer can be a challenge and can be helped with a higher energy supplement (e.g. crushed maize).

Feeding – All

Download these fact sheets as a group

Colostrum, whole milk & powder


Milk feeding systems


High volume


Low volume


Rumen development




Summer management


Nursing cows