How to Mix Calf Milk Replacer the Right Way

by Caitlyn Andrews July 05, 2018

Calf milk replacer benefits

Feeding a quality calf milk replacer offers many benefits to your calves. It can result in higher growth rates among other advantages.

However, to maximize these benefits you need to make sure you are correctly mixing the milk replacer.

Why feed calf milk replacer?

First, why should you feed calf milk replacer when you could feed whole milk instead?

Here are some of the ways that a milk replacer is better than the whole milk alternative:

  • Consistency: Calves thrive with consistency. When you feed calf milk replacer you can trust that each bag has the same nutrients and ingredients as the last. Whole milk does not give you this same benefit.
  • Convenience: Milk replacers can be fed on your schedule. Calf growers using automated feeders, in particular, can save time and labor by feeding milk replacer.
  • Digestion: Quality powdered milk replacers are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of growing calves. They're made to be easily digested.
  • Disease control: Some milk replacers offer the added benefit of disease control. Medicated milk replacers can help control common calf diseases like coccidiosis. Other milk replacers may include feed-through fly control, like ClariFly. 
  • Safety: Milk replacers go through rigorous testing to ensure that they are safe to feed. Look for milk replacers with Safe Feed/Safe Food certification. This voluntary program sets high standards of excellence to maximize food and feed safety.

SFSF certified feeds will have this logo on the bag:

Safe Feed Safe Food Certification

Take a look at our premium ORANGE MILK to see the logo for yourself and the difference a quality milk replacer makes for growing calves.

How to mix calf milk replacer

When feeding calf milk replacer you need to make sure that you are accurately measuring and mixing for the best results. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your milk replacer:

  1. Use the right tools: The key to getting the milk replacer mixed just right is using the correct tools. You'll need a calibrated scale, a whisk or other mixing device, a bucket, and a thermometer.
  2. Weigh the powder: To get the right amount of milk replacer you must weigh the powder. Use the instructions on the bag to determine the correct serving size. Do not guess or rely on measuring scoops. Weighing is the only way to get an accurate measure each time.
  3. Get the temperature right: Check the recommended mixing temp on your bag of milk replacer. Use a thermometer to get this temperature right so the powder mixes evenly. An optimal temperature to aim for when feeding the milk replacer to your calves is between 101 to 105° F.

Buckets or bottles for feeding calf milk replacer?

Some producers prefer feeding calves with bottles and others prefer buckets. There is no right or wrong answer.

Each method comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. You should consider your farm management practices when determining which to use for your calves.


Buckets are often less labor-intensive and easier to use than bottles. However, it's more difficult to measure the milk replacer. Calves can more easily tip or spill the bucket. Secure buckets when possible to prevent them from being knocked over.

*Bonus tip: Calves often eat better from white buckets than darker buckets.


Bottles can be more labor-intensive, but calves are more accepting of nipples than buckets. It's easier to control the amount of milk replacer that each calf gets when using bottles.

calf milk replacer bottle

Above: Bottles make measuring calf milk replacer easy.

The key to using either feeding method is keeping your bucket or bottle clean. Frequently sanitize buckets, bottles, and other feeding utensils.

Remove buckets from pens when the calf isn't feeding to keep them clean. For bottles, regularly check the nipples for signs of wear or cracks. Bacteria can contaminate these spaces.

The best way to feed calf milk replacer

Ultimately, the best way to feed calf milk replacer is to:

  • use the right tools,
  • accurately measure the powder,
  • mix with water at the right temperature,
  • feed the same amount of replacer on a consistent schedule,
  • keep buckets and bottles clean.

 Following these tips will help you make the most of your milk replacer and raise healthy calves!

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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