Milk Replacer | Ask-a-Vet Sheep
by: Dr. G.F. Kennedy
Six years ago we had enough of low quality milk replacer, so we decided to custom formulate our own product. I am not a nutritionist but, relying on people who have expertise in the field, we determined there were two critical aspects. First, it should be skim milk based, and second, we preferred acidification as well. Our product has enjoyed instant success and customer satisfaction. Twelve thousand lambs yearly can’t be wrong.
Now come the competitors with products that are cheaper priced. By leaving out the costly ingredients that are used for human consumption, you can lower the price on a twenty-five pound bag by three to four dollars. We have less margin than that, so we chose to compete with quality and performance, not price. I refuse to sacrifice animal welfare for cost.
It is pretty simple. If you use skim milk at 1.44 versus dried whey concentrate at .62 per pound, it does make a difference. Dairy calves are started on higher cost ingredients and then the formula is cheapened up at two weeks. Calves are fed for eight weeks while sheep should be weaned at 30 days so time doesn’t permit changing the formula once started as they are fed full feed free choice.
I never back away from a fight when the welfare of animals is involved. Not only is it the right thing to do but a well-cared for healthy animal is the most profitable.
It all revolves around the difference in protein and lactose content. The majority of the protein content of skim milk powder is casein. Otherwise known as slow protein, casein is slowly released after ingestion. Whey protein is a fast protein which is quickly assimilated, the casein has been removed through the cheese making process. The feeding of whey can result in intestinal hemorrhage syndrome caused by rapid fermentation of lactose and high levels of gas production, abomasal bloat.