I raise Holstein bull calves from 5 days old up to 300 lbs. I want to know an economical grain mixture to feed the weaned calves. Calf starters do not allow a decent profit margin. Also I have a problem with them constantly getting runny noses and colds. Are Holsteins just more supceptible to illness or are there vaccinations I should be giving?

One example of a home made calf starter is 44% cracked shelled corn, 28% oats, 20% soybean meal, 5% molasses (ideally liquid, but), and 3% commercial mineral vitamin mix. This starter contains 18% crude protein, 8% ADF, 0.6 calcium, 0.5% phosphours, 1500 IU of A/ lb, 500 IU of D per lb, and 30 IU of E per lb. No forage is needed with the calf starter until the calf is eating 4-5 pounds per day, then add can hay. However to take advantage of efficient growth characteristics of bull calves post weaning a whole corn and protein pellet program works well without roughage. The ingredients in the pellet can include digestible fiber sources such as soyhulls and beet pulp.

Concerning the runny noses and colds, it looks like pneumonia. Check ventilation and keep calves separated (as in hutches). Have your vet check these calves also. Do they have temperatures?

Mike Hutjens, Extension Dairy Specialist, U of IL – Illini DairyNET
Hugh Chester-Jones, U of MN dairy and beef specialist