Popularization of calf starter mixture feeding


The goal of this project was to create awareness about the importance of calf starter feeding among dairy farmers in Southern parts of Karnataka State, India and to impart hands on training on calf starter feed preparation using locally available feed ingredients.



The future of any dairy farm depends on the successful rearing of calves and heifers for herd replacements. However, rearing of young animals is neglected due to the economic compulsion of farmers to sell milk for human consumption, consequently resulting in low productivity of animals characterized by delay in onset of puberty and age at first calving.

One potential solution is introducing starter feeds to the young ones, to ensure proper nutrition and to wean the calves early for productive benefits. However, the awareness about such alternatives is limited among dairy farmers in India. Thus, this project deals with the formulation of calf starter feeds using locally available feed resources and promoting feeding of starter mixtures to calves to achieve higher body growth rate and subsequently reproductive performance and higher milk productivity.  

The project is taken up in three model villages viz., Halekoppalu in Hassan district and Kethahalli and Honnegowdanahalli in Chamarajanagar districts of Karnataka State, India. Through the project, preparation of calf pre-starter and starter feeds using locally available ingredients such as maize grains, groundnut cake and other ingredients is being promoted among dairy farmers. The performance of calves under the project are being assessed based on body weight gain, age of maturity and first calving including health status at regular intervals.



The survey conducted at the identified village has indicated that none of the dairy farmers knew about the calf starter preparation and feeding. The mortality rate of calves during the last year was about 16%. The average body weight of calves at 6 month and 12 months of age was 43  and 72 kg, respectively. The average daily gain was observed to be less than 150 g. The age to attain puberty and first calving were observed to be 20-24 months and 30-35 months respectively in the prevailing system.

Several method demonstrations on calf starter feed preparation using locally available feed ingredients were conducted in the identified villages under the project.

The trial cum demonstration is under progress. The available data indicated that daily body weight gain in calves under starter feeds is now between 350 to 450 g (except one calf which showed 685g gain/day). Many farmers in the selected villages have started preparing their own calf starters. Our team is giving all the technical guidance to them.