Feeding yoghurt milk is good for calves

WITH many dairy farmers over quota this spring, large amounts of milk will be fed to calves.

Many experiments were done in the past, adding probiotics to milk for calf feeding with an average 5% increase in the calves' liveweight gain.

The best products were the ones containing large amounts of lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria reduce the PH in the calves' stomach to a point where E.Coli bacteria - which can cause calf scour - cannot survive.

A natural source of lactic acid bacteria is yoghurt and when you add yoghurt to milk you are directly adding lactic acid bacteria to the calves' stomach.

Guidelines for adding yoghurt to milk:

1. Add three bottles of Actimel natural yoghurt to about two pints (1.1litres) of warm milk. Store the mixture in a flask and leave it stand for 12 hours. The flask will keep the milk warm for a long time, allowing the bacteria to multiply quickly.

2. Empty the flask into three gallons of warm milk and keep for another 24 hours. If possible this should be kept in a warm room. After 24 hours the milk will be thick and sour.

3. Now add this 3 gals. of sour milk to 40 gals. of warm milk and leave overnight. Smaller amounts can be made up if required.

This milk should now have a thick consistency and it is now ready for feeding the following day.

4. When you feed this milk always leave 3 or 4 gals. of yoghurt milk in the container. This is your starter for the next feed. Repeat this daily keeping 3 or 4 gals. in the container always.

5. Most dairy farmers add the warm milk at the evening milking and this is suitable for feeding to calves the following day but warm milk can be added at both milkings if needed.

6. If the milk turns very thick, cold milk can be added and the early procedure followed again.

7. Washing the container is not required but a new mix should be started every 2/3 weeks.

Note: Never use milk containing antibiotics to the yoghurt milk as they will completely destroy the yoghurt culture, killing all the good bacteria. This includes milk from treated cows or milk from freshly calved cows during the dry cow therapy withdrawl period.

Feeding routine

Yoghurt milk can be fed in troughs, buckets or through nipple feeders but since it is mostly fed cold, calves take a bit of time to get used to it. Feeding cold milk ensures calves don't drink too much at any one time.


Calves should always get 3 litres of colostrum (biestings) in the first two hours from their own mother.

Calves should always get colostrum for the first few days but can be put on yoghurt milk at seven days of age. Calves should drink between 5 and 10 litres per day when they get used to yoghurt milk.

Make sure calves are batched in similar age groups and always watch out for slow or shy feeders as they may not get enough.