Denkamilk calves - 22 December 2020

Proper digestion of nutrients is of utmost importance for the calf in the early weeks of life. Improper digestion  of nutrients can lead to diarrhea, the leading cause of death in pre-weaned calves. Milk is digested in both the abomasum and the intestinal tract. Pre-digestion (including coagulation) takes place in the abomasum with the help of acids and enzymes. This then allows the calf to further absorb all the nutrients in the intestines.


Acidifying to increase digestibility

The casein protein in cow’s milk, or calf milk replacer, will create a curd in the calf’s abomasum for optimal digestion. This is done at a low pH and with the aid of the rennet enzyme, comparable to the cheese making process. Citric acid aids in this process and can improve the digestibility of cow’s milk. By adding Vitaladd (contains citric acid) to the cow’s milk, the curd will form considerably faster, as seen in the picture below.

Good curd formation (left) and moderate curdling (right).


Acidification inhibits bacterial growth in milk

Environmental bacteria can present challenges and inhibit proper digestion of nutrients. Denkamilk calf milk replacer has been formulated to provide optimal nutrient uptake and prevent improper digestion of nutrients. Cow’s milk varies in composition from day to day, with a higher pH compared to milk replacer. If cow’s milk is left in the bucket for a long period of time (i.e. with ad lib feeding) or if  milk residues remain after cleaning (i.e. in / near the teats), bacterial growth will increase. This bacterial pressure can negatively affect digestion. The additional acidification is therefore recommended when using cow’s milk to inhibit growth of bacteria.

Acidifying with Vitaladd to supplement the cow’s milk with vitamins and minerals

Advancements over the years in breeding and nutrition have changed the milk composition of modern dairy cows. The fat and protein content has increased and the concentration of vitamins and minerals has decreased. This has resulted in the composition of cow’s milk no longer being best suited to the nutritional needs of the calf.

The mineral and vitamin status of the calf is highly dependent on the transfer of these components during pregnancy across the placenta, via the colostrum and via the milk. Milk is rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and chlorine but does not provide enough iron, manganese, copper, cobalt and vitamins D and E. Due to the low concentration in cow’s milk of some minerals and vitamins, the calf is at risk of deficiencies. Moderate deficiencies result in reduced growth and a suppressed immune system.


Learn more about Vitaladd