At the 2009 AABP, Theresa Ollivett, DVM, CornellUniversity, says neonatal dairy calf maintenance energy requirements are approximately 1.6 Mcal metabolizable energy (ME)/d at thermoneutral temperatures. Historically used milk replacer feeding regimens (e.g. 2 quarts of reconstituted solids twice per day) provide approximately 2.2 Mcal ME/d. Considering the abundance of environmental and pathogenic challenges faced by neonatal calves, these conventional feeding programs provide little energy reserves for maintaining body temperature, mounting immune responses, and growing at expected rates of 1.1 to 2.0 lb/day (0.5 to 0.9 kg/d).

Cryptosporidium parvum, an enteric protozoan, is an almost ubiquitous infectious stressor of neonatal dairy calves. Infection by this organism is difficult to prevent and treat. Calves fed a high plane of nutrition (HPN) diet maintained hydration, had faster resolution of diarrhea, grew better and converted feed with greater efficiency than the calves fed the conventional nutrition (CN) diet.

Providing a higher level of nutrition in neonatal dairy calves significantly reduced the effect of disease due to C. parvum and should be considered a viable option for feeding calves on today’s commercial dairy farms.