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close this bookBetter Farming Series 11- Cattle Breeding (FAO - INADES, 1977, 63 p.)
close this folderFeeding cattle
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View the documentHow cattle feed
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View the documentHow to feed calves

How to feed calves

· At the beginning, with mother's milk

The first stomach of a young calf is not fully developed. It cannot ruminate. If it is fed grass, it cannot digest it (see page 8).

But milk is digested without ruminating. So the best food for a young calf is the mother's milk.

But too often the cows do not have much milk and the calves cannot drink enough.

Never feed two calves with the milk of only one cow.

The cow gives too little milk to feed two calves.

A two- month- old calf fed with its mother's milk needs 4 to 6 litres of milk a day.

During the first 2 months leave all the mother's milk for the young calf. During this period do not milk the cow. Keep all her milk for the calf.

It pays better to do that.
If you sell milk during these first 2 months, you earn a little money.
But the calf will not be well fed, it will not put on weight.
It may die.
In that case you will lose a lot of money.

· Later, with grass

For 2 months the calf drinks its mother's milk.

At the age of 3 weeks, it can be given a little green grass. Its stomach develops and it begins to ruminate. At 3 months it can digest grass. The calf, we say, is then weaned. It no longer needs all its mother's milk. The cow can then be milked.

After weaning, the calf no longer drinks its mother's milk and feeds on grass.

Weaning is often the time when calves die. It is difficult for calves to change from one food to another.

To help a calf at weaning, give it a feed supplement as well as grass. If you mix this feed supplement with water, the calf will digest it better.

Do not forget to give calves a mineral supplement (see page 17).

If a calf lacks mineral salts its bones will be badly formed.


You may give the calf any of the following:

· Cereals

Millet, sorghum, maize, rice are good feed for calves.
Crush these cereals so that they are well digested.
1 kg of crushed millet feeds a calf as well as 2 kg of whole millet grain.
These feeds are costly.
They are food for people, but you can give animals grain that is broken or damaged by insects, and the part that people do not eat, that is, the bran of rice, maize or millet.

· Oil cake

This is the name for what remains when the oil has been taken from groundnuts, copra, oil palm kernels or cottonseed.
Oil cake is good food, rich in protein.

Meal for calves Dealers sometimes sell meal for animals. This meal is a mixture of crushed grain and oil cake.
For instance, to make 100 kg of meal, the following mixture is used:

62 kg of crushed sorghum
35 kg of groundnut oil cake
3 kg of mineral supplement.

The 3 kg of mineral supplement contain:

0.6 kg lime
0.3 kg salt
2.5 kg bone ask.