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Rearing Calves

By Emma Peters - Ruminant Technical Services
Published 5th May 2024

Historically seen as a by-product of the dairy industry, rearing calves is a specialised field and is the fundamental cornerstone for the continuum of the vitality and productivity of any dairy herd. Heifer calves are not merely the future of the herd; they embody its very essence. Ensuring the wellbeing of these animals profoundly influences the overall health, productivity and profitability of the enterprise moving forward.


The first 8 weeks of a calf’s life is a critical period, it is where the animal undergoes most of its gastrointestinal and reproductive organ development. Essentially born a monogastric, an animal with one stomach, a calf requires not only milk, but a source of concentrate feed and a source of effective fibre to initiate early rumen development.

Calf Image from Kym M 1.jpg

Rumen development includes changes in the development of the rumen organ and rumen epithelium and the establishment of the rumen microbiota. Encouraging the early intake of concentrate feed stimulates the growth and development of the rumen papillae, finger-like projections that line the rumen, increasing the overall surface area for nutrient absorption. It takes approximately 2 – 3 weeks to develop a substantial bacterial population to efficiently digest grain and it is vital to ensure adequate rumen development has occurred before weaning at 5-6 weeks of age to positively influence lifetime efficiency. Also, during the first 8 weeks of life, a young heifer undergoes most of their mammary tissue (parenchyma tissue) growth and development. If this process is impeded,  there is no second chance to make up for it. The blood flow rate through the mammary gland tissue is highly correlated to milk production when she enters the milking herd.


National Feed Solutions has a range of calf concentrate feeds suitable for calves from the first day of life through to 6 months of age. NFS Calf Concentrate feeds are highly palatable, nutrient dense feeds containing a selection of highly palatable and highly digestible ingredients to encourage feed intake and deliver essential nutrients for growth and development. They contain a high level of starch to promote rapid rumen development, deliver a balanced macro mineral profile to support overall animal health and contain additional ingredients including Lasalocid Sodium (Bovatec) for improved liveweight gains, feed conversion efficiency and the control of coccidiosis. They also contain MicroBasics Surveillance and Phytobiotics Sangrovit a yeast, pre- and probiotic and a natural anti-inflammatory supporting gut health during times of stress.

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