Relevance of calf rearing

The foundation for a successful dairy cow is laid in the first weeks of the calf’s life. Therefore it is very important to make this rearing phase of the young animals as trouble-free as possible. The goal is the successful rearing of high-performance and fit calves that achieve a low first-calfing age and high milk yields during lactation through optimal development.

Feeding whole milk during calf rearing

There are many reasons why whole milk is used. It is the most natural way to feed calves, and at the same time, whole milk is already available on farms and does not have to be purchased separately. It is 100% milk protein and also contains highly digestible nutrients.

The feeding of whole milk is also frequently resorted to, especially in times of low milk revenue and rising costs for milk replacer.

Deficiencies in the whole milk

It should be noted, however, that whole milk only meets the calf’s nutritional requirements to a limited extent. Breeding, increased milk yield or even errors in dry cow management mean that whole milk does not have a sufficient supply of vitamins and trace elements to meet the calf’s needs. At the same time, calves are unable to synthesize certain vitamins (B vitamins) themselves, as their rumen is initially still non-functional. In particular, the supply of copper, zinc, manganese, selenium and vitamins A, D and E as well as the B vitamins cannot be ensured in sufficient form by the whole milk.

The trace element iron is of particular importance. The iron content in whole milk is 2 mg/l, and the calf’s requirement is about 100 mg per day. This requirement cannot be met by feeding whole milk. The result can be disturbed hematopoiesis, as the organism is restricted in hemoglobin formation. A sufficient supply of iron is necessary to enable unrestricted growth and to increase the calves’ resistance to infections.

whole milkrecommandation
iron mg/kg2100
zinc mg/kg3580
manganese mg/kg0,270
copper mg/kg0,58
selenium mg/kg0,150,4

Figure 1: Deficiencies in the whole milk

Possible consequences of a deficiency of vitamins and trace elements can also be a reduced immune defense and vitality, as well as weak drinking and diarrhea. These conditions result in poorer feed conversion and reduced growth rates. To prevent this from happening, the use of a whole milk enhancer is recommended.

Influencing the performance of calves

There are other factors that can limit the calf’s growth and development: The young calf’s digestive system is optimally adapted to utilize whole milk. However, management errors such as poor hygiene and various stress factors can affect the health of the calves.

Diarrheal diseases in particular represent one of the most frequent causes of calf losses in the first weeks of life. In this context, pathogens such as cryptosporidia, rota-& coronaviruses and E.coli bacteria are particularly important. Cryptosporidia are particularly feared. A calf monitoring from 2018 from Saxony showed that cryptosporidia could be detected in calves on 59 out of 60 farms.

All of these mentioned pathogens damage the intestinal mucosa of the calf. This results in accompanying fluid and electrolyte losses and associated blood hyperacidity. As a result, affected animals show growth and performance depression. Calf diarrhea also often ends lethal for the animal.

Graphic-triggers for early diarrhea

Figure 2: Triggers for early diarrhea

Sick calves are not only time-consuming and costly, studies also show that diseases in the calf affect performance in the first lactation. For this reason, it is even more important to avoid mistakes that negatively affect the health of the calf. Good colostrum management and thorough hygiene measures are particularly important here.  However, feeding can also specifically support the development of the calf by providing an optimal, needs-based supply.

Positive effects of acids in calf rearing

The use of acids can have a positive effect on calf rearing. By lowering the pH, acids support the coagulation process in the abomasum. This allows nutrients from the milk to be better absorbed and used for calf growth. In addition, diarrhea can be prevented by supporting the coagulation process.

When feeding whole milk, the milk is often not given to calves immediately after milking. By leaving the milk to stand or using unclean containers that come into contact with the milk and lastly contaminated buckets cause unwanted bacteria to multiply exponentially. Ingestion of high numbers of disease-causing bacteria can in turn cause diarrhea in young animals. Bacterial growth is inhibited by acidifying the milk and thus lowering the pH. This point should be considered especially when feeding ad libitum.

Note: However, the use of acid never replaces a thorough working method and cleaning of the buckets and teat!

The solution – the whole milk enhancer JOSERA GastroVit

JOSERA-GastroVit- milk replacer bag and bucket

The whole milk enhancer JOSERA GastroVit not only supplements vitamins and trace elements – JOSERA GastroVit is a combination of various active ingredients with the aim of improving digestibility and the immune system by supplementing acids and health-promoting active ingredients.

Next to important vitamins and trace elements, JOSERA GastroVit contains a combination of acids that promote rennet coagulation and inhibit bacterial growth.

In addition, JOSERA GastroVit contains other active ingredients that strengthen the immune system of the calf and strengthens it against external influences:

To reduce the risk of gastrointestinal diseases, JOSERA GastroVit contains probiotics. These are living microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria. They serve to prevent colonization and multiplication of potential pathogens in the calf’s intestine. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates. Special intestinal bacteria of the calf are able to use them as a source of energy for their growth. The multiplication of these “good” germs inhibits the spread of undesirable germs and keeps the overall intestinal environment stable.

JOSERA GastroVit also contains garlic. The positive effects of garlic include its inhibitory effect on diarrhoeal pathogens such as cryptosporidia. In a recent study, treating sick goats with garlic reduced the number of cryptosporidia eggs in their feces by 77% (see Figure 5, Cf. Kahn et al., 2021). Garlic also not only improves gut health, but also helps increase feed conversion and weight gain.

graphic GastroVit - Inhibition of cryptosporidia

Figure 3: Treatment of goats with garlic inhibits the multiplication of cryptosporidia (Cf. Khan et al. 2021).

For the production of the product, JOSERA only uses extremely high-quality raw materials, which are additionally tested for quality in the in-house laboratory. On the picture you can see the above mentioned ingredients of JOSERA GastroVit.

The immunoglobulins from the whole egg powder contained in JOSERA GastroVit are able to reduce the risk of various infectious diseases by binding to specific pathogens.

JOSERA GastroVit also contains ß-carotene. This is the precursor needed for the synthesis of vitamin A. Because a deficiency of ß-carotene causes changes in the respiratory tract and intestinal mucosa.

ingredients of GastroVit

JOSERA uses only raw materials of the best quality and also tests them in its own laboratory. In the picture the above mentioned central ingredients of GastroVit are shown.

This special combination in JOSERA GastroVit, tailored to the young calf, increases the calves’ resistance and reduces the risk of growth and performance depression in the young calf age.

Watch the explanatory video for Josera GastroVit now


There are many reasons for feeding whole milk; these often result from the respective management on the farms. However, from a nutritional point of view, it is important to note that when feeding whole milk, an enhancer is essential for adequate calf nutrition. The GastroVit whole milk enhancer can compensate for the deficiencies of whole milk and strengthen the immune system and resistance to external influences. This creates the optimal basis for successful calf rearing.

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