LifeStart feeding schedules lead to extra growth during the pre-weaning phase

Research has shown that the quality of nutrition has a strong influence on gene expression, which in term is an important factor influencing maximum growth and future production potential of calves.

Several authors have studied the effect of elevated planes of nutrition on average daily weight gain during the pre-weaning phase and the effect on future productivity [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9].
The milk-feeding programmes as well as colostrum management and other rearing conditions varied between these studies, so the effect on pre-weaning average daily gain and subsequent milk production varied as well.

The effect of LifeStart schedules on extra growth

Reference Effect on pre-weaning ADG (gram/day) Effect on 1st lactation in litres
Shamay et al[1] 287 981
Faber et al[2] 195 955
Morrisson et al[3] 160 0
Davis-Ricker et al[4] 197 416
Moallem et al[5] 70 732
Reath-Knight et al[6] 230 718
Drackley et al[7] 146 342
Drackley et al[7] 226 1332
Terré et al[8] 96 624
Soberon et al[9] 355 552

The Trouw Nutrition Kempenshof trial

Material and methods

A total 86 individually housed female calves were included in a longitudinal study carried out in the Kempenshof[10].
Pairs were fed the same amounts of colostrum from the same source and blocked by colostrum, parity and season. They had ad libitum access from day 4 onwards to water, starter feed and straw and were all weaned according to a standard protocol at 56 days of age. From day 70 onwards, they were moved to group housing. The only difference between the two groups was the amount of calf milk replacer fed. The LifeStart group was fed 8 litres per day compared to 4 litres per day for the controls, both groups were fed at a concentration of 150 g/l.


Calves in the LifeStart group had a higher bodyweight from day 7 onwards (see figure 1). At weaning, the difference in ADG was 155 gram, at day 70, the difference in ADG between the LifeStart group and the controls was 123 gram.


[1] Shamay, A., D. Werner, U. Moallem, H. Barash, and I. Bruckental. 2005. Effect of nursing management and skeletal size at weaning on puberty, skeletal growth rate, and milk production during first lactation of dairy heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 88:1460–1469.
[2] Faber, S. N., N. E. Faber, T. C. McCauley, and R. L. Ax. 2005. Case study: Effects of colostrum ingestion on lactational performance. Prof. Anim. Sci. 21:420–425.
[3] Morrison, S. J., H. C. F. Wicks, R. J. Fallon, J. Twigge, L. E. R. Dawson, A. R. G. Wylie, and A. F. Carson. 2009. Effects of feeding level and protein content of milk replacer on the performance of dairy herd replacements. Animal 3:1570–1579.
[4] Davis Rincker LE, VandeHaar MJ, Wolf CA, Liesman JS, Chapin LT and Weber Nielsen MS, Effect of intensified feeding of heifer calves on growth, pubertal age, calving age, milk yield, and economics. J. Dairy Sci 94:3554-3567 (2011). [5] Moallem, U., D. Werner, H. Lehrer, M. Zachut, L. Livshitz, S. Yakoby, and A. Shamay. 2010. Long-term effects of ad libitum whole milk prior to weaning and prepubertal protein supplementation on skeletal growth rate and first-lactation milk production. J. Dairy Sci. 93:2639–2650.
[6] Raeth-Knight, M., H. Chester-Jones, S. Hayes, J. Linn, R. Larson, D. Ziegler, B. Ziegler, and N. Broadwater. 2009. Impact of conventional or intensive milk replacer programs on Holstein heifer performance through six months of age and during first lactation. J. Dairy Sci. 92:799–809.
[7] Drackley, J. K., B. C. Pollard, H. M. Dann, and J. A. Stamey. 2007. First-lactation milk production for cows fed control or intensifi ed milk replacer programs as calves. J. Dairy Sci. 90(Suppl. 1):614 (Abstr.).
[8] Terré, M., C. Tejero, and A. Bach. 2009. Long-term effects on heifer performance of an enhanced growth feeding programme applied during the pre-weaning period. J. Dairy Res. 76:331–339.
[9] Soberon F, Raffrenato E, Everett RW and Van Amburgh ME. 2012. Preweaning milk replacer intake and effects on long-term productivity of dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. 95:783-793.
[10] Data on file, Study report R06201A.

LifeStart Themes

Most of the LifeStart science presented on this site is related to a particular stage of the life of a calf or dairy cow. There are however some general themes not related to a particular stage of life.

For a full understanding of LifeStart science, please review the information related to the following
4 themes:

Questions about Calf Rearing?



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Glucose metabolism

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Lactobalance, osmoregulation and hydration

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