Evaluation of Protocols for Acidifying Milk Fed to Calves in California

Researcher: Dr. Richard Periera, UC Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine
Timeline: January 2024 – December 2025

Background: Many critical differences exist in management between group/paired and individually housed calves, which can have direct impacts on animal health, well-being, and productivity if not properly considered with evidence-based data. Acidification of milk has been used on some farms to address challenges with feeding calves in group-housed systems, by giving them 24-hour access to milk in an automated feeding system.

The overarching objective of this project is to evaluate protocols for acidifying milk to be fed to calves (e.g., saleable, or unsaleable waste milk) to increase the ability to offer sufficient feed to calves in a group system in CA conditions.

Industry Benefit: This project will generate laboratory-tested data for various simulated scenarios and serve as a foundation for acidifying milk for conducting live animal field trials evaluating using free-access acidified milk under farm conditions in CA. Such a feeding system could address major challenges to maintaining animal health and feed availability under group/pair housing systems. This is based on a previous study showing improved health, and greater body weight gain and structural growth during the pre-weaning period for calves fed free-access acidified milk replacer. The results could generate practical data for dairy farmers to feed calves in a group or pair housing facility at reduced cost/losses.