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Maximize value of pasteurized waste milk with a balancer

Tom Earleywine for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 March 2016

Thinking of feeding pasteurized waste milk to your calves? It can be an excellent choice, both nutritionally and economically. But on its own, pasteurized waste milk does not deliver the complete package necessary to feed all the calves in your herd to their greatest potential.

That’s where using a pasteurized waste milk balancer can help.



The benefits of balancers

Pasteurized waste milk balancers bridge the shortfalls of whole pasteurized waste milk by providing:

  • Consistency – Solids levels in waste milk can vary considerably depending how many fresh versus sick cows contributed to a particular batch, whether flush water may have been rinsed into a load and how frequently the waste milk is agitated.

    An on-farm study evaluating waste milk from 252 farms showed a wide day-to-day range in protein (2.2 to 5 percent), fat (1.8 to 9.5 percent) and total solids (9 to 18 percent) of waste milk. Salable whole milk is typically 3 percent protein, 3.6 percent fat and 12.5 percent total solids.

  • Performance – A field trial of 240 calves on a large Arizona calf ranch compared the growth of calves fed 2.1 quarts of pasteurized waste milk three times per day to calves fed the same volume of pasteurized waste milk plus 9 ounces of balancer per calf per day, also over three daily feedings.

    The calves on the balancer-enhanced diet gained 17 percent more weight by weaning and showed greater hip height (8 percent), body length (7 percent) and heart girth (35 percent). A large field trial in the southeast U.S. and another Virginia Tech study done in California showed similar performance gains for calves fed diets supplemented with balancers.

  • Milk supply management – Virginia Tech researchers also have evaluated the waste milk supplies on dairies throughout the U.S. They found that dairies typically generate 30 to 60 percent of the waste milk needed to feed all of their pre-weaned calves.

    For dairies feeding calves a full potential liquid ration, that percentage drops to 10 to 20 percent. Pasteurized waste milk balancers and full potential milk replacers can be used to extend this supply. If you have “plenty of waste milk” to feed all of your calves, there may be udder health issues in your herd that need attention.

  • Missing nutrients – While highly nutritious, milk does not provide all of the vitamins and minerals needed for optimum growth in calves. A comparison to NRC guidelines shows whole milk is deficient in vitamins D3 and E, all seven essential trace minerals and five of eight essential B vitamins. Balancer products contain these additive nutrients to fortify whole milk.

  • Added technologies – Like milk replacers, pasteurized milk balancers can be enhanced with coccidiostats to prevent coccidiosis and larvacides for fly control. Other additives that may help the calf respond to health challenges, such as mannan oligosaccharides and beta glucan, may be included.

  • Profitability – The efficient growth promoted by feeding balancers results in greater cost efficiency as well. In the Southeastern trial, cost per pound of gain was $0.25 less for calves raised with a balancer, a savings of 17.2 percent. Because balancers help to stretch and normalize milk supplies, they also prevent the need for dairies to tap into salable milk supplies to feed all of their calves.

More performance evidence

Another recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University concluded that a feeding program incorporating a pasteurized waste milk balancer into a full potential ration yielded the best performance in pre-weaned calves.

The study evaluated 80 Holstein calves housed in hutches and fed a liquid ration for 56 days. They received one of four feeding treatments:

  1. 4 quarts of heat-treated whole milk (total of 1 pound of dry matter) per day

  2. 4 quarts of heat-treated whole milk plus pasteurized milk balancer (total of 1.5 pounds of dry matter) per day

  3. 4 quarts heat-treated whole milk (total of 1 pound of dry matter) for the first 14 days of life, 6 quarts of heat-treated whole milk (total of 1.5 pounds dry matter) on days 15 to 49 and 3 quarts of heat-treated whole milk (total of 0.75 pounds of dry matter) on days 50 to 56.

  4. 4 quarts of heat-treated whole milk plus pasteurized milk balancer (total of 1.5 pounds of dry matter) for the first 14 days of life, 6 quarts of heat-treated whole milk plus pasteurized milk balancer (total of 2.25 pounds of dry matter) on days 15 to 49, and 3 quarts of heat-treated whole milk plus pasteurized milk balancer (total of 1.13 pound of dry matter) on days 50 to 56.

All feeding protocols were split between two feedings per day except on the final week of treatments (3 and 4), which were delivered once a day in the morning.

The researchers found that the calves in Group 4 had the greatest bodyweight, average daily gain and feed efficiency. Figure 1 shows the comparison of average bodyweight at weaning for the four treatments.


It is interesting to note that calves fed 4 quarts of milk daily plus balancer (Group 2) had equal or greater weight gain compared to calves in Group 3, which received 6 quarts milk daily without balancer. While total solids fed were similar between the two programs, calves performed better on the balancer-enhanced diet.

As we learn more about calf nutrition and doing what is best for calves, it becomes clear that consistent delivery of ample nutrients is the key to maximum performance. Pasteurized waste milk enhanced with a balancer makes this possible.  PD

Tom Earleywine has a Ph.D. in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is director of nutritional services for Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products.

Because of factors outside of Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products control, individual results to be obtained, including but not limited to: financial performance, animal condition, health or performance, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Land O’Lakes Animal Milk Products.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Tom Earleywine
  • Tom Earleywine

  • Director of Nutritional Services
  • Land O’Lakes
  • Email Tom Earleywine





Choosing the right balancer

When selecting a pasteurized waste milk balancer product, look for these important features:


  1. Formulation – Be sure the product is a pasteurized waste milk balancer designed specifically for blending or replacing a portion of pasteurized milk.

  2. Nutrient balance – A balancer product should be significantly higher in protein compared to fat to create a liquid ration that most correctly fits the nutritional needs of growing calves (for example, 25 percent protein, 10 percent fat). This maintains the protein level needed for lean growth and encourages starter intake.

  3. Fortification – Added vitamins and minerals should be included to help bring the calf diet up to NRC standards, since pasteurized milk is short in many of these essential nutrients.

  4. Additives – Check for the option of including a larvacide product for fly control, an ionophore to control coccidiosis and high levels of technologies such as mannan oligosaccharides and beta glucan for gut health support.

  5. Technical support – The product’s supplier should provide technical assistance, including software, to help with decisions on waste milk solids content evaluation, target feeding levels, milk supply management and calf growth and nutrition program goals.

While feeding rates may vary, many producers strive to feed a target solids level of 15 to 17 percent, which can be achieved using software to balance the diet and a Brix refractometer.

Be careful, however – the refractometer does not do an adequate job of estimating solids alone; it reads low by 1 to 3 percentage points. Also, it may be necessary to add some water with the balancer product to provide enough volume of solution and achieve ideal solids levels.

The mixing protocol should evaluate solids levels before pasteurization but add the balancer after pasteurization.  PD