Alternative ingredients in calf milk replacer

A review for bovine practitioners


  • R. M. Thornsberry Mid America Veterinary Consulting, P.O.Box 818, Richland, MO 65556
  • David Wood Animix, W7104 County KW, Juneau, WI 54701
  • A. F. Kertz Animix, W7104 County KW, Juneau, WI 54701
  • David Hutcheson Animal Agricultural Consulting International, LLC, 63 Neches Court, Scroggins, TX 75480



calf milk replacers, alternative ingredients, spray-dried bovine plasma, amino acid profiles, carbohydrate and lipid digestibility, animal nutrition, calf feeding, calves, diets, feed formulation, ingredients, intestines, lactose, milk proteins, morbidity, mortality, newborn animals, plant oils, plant protein, polysaccharides, reviews


Non-dairy source ingredients for calf milk replacer formulations have been evaluated in North America and Europe, and are routinely used in European milk replacer formulas. Dairy origin ingredients are increasingly less economical for use in animal feed due to increased global demand for these high-quality foodstuffs. As an alternative, specific non-dairy ingredients are satisfactory for neonatal calf diets when properly incorporated into calf milk replacers. Plant-sourced proteins and oils must be properly processed for efficient utilization. Feeding spray-dried bovine plasma results in calf performance comparable to feeding milk protein when incorporated at recommended levels in calf milk replacers, and it reduces calf morbidity and mortality. Replacing milk lactose is more problematic because pre-ruminant calves lack intestinal enzymatic activity to digest plant-based polysaccharides. The objective of this review is to provide cattle veterinarians detailed information about alternative ingredients that are acceptable for formulation into calf milk replacers.




How to Cite

Thornsberry, R. M., Wood, D., Kertz, A. F., & Hutcheson, D. (2016). Alternative ingredients in calf milk replacer: A review for bovine practitioners. The Bovine Practitioner, 50(1), 65–88.