Using Milk Bar

When you use the Milk Bar® controlled flow system, common problems like cross suckling are reduced. This means you can choose whatever housing system suits your farm and potentially reduce labour by group feeding.

No matter what system you use, the calf’s digestive system remains the same. By delivering a controlled milk flow, calves are more robust and easier to raise with less cross suckling. Milk Bar feeders are designed to complement any rearing system from individually housed calves to large groups. Easy for you, healthy for them!
Individual to weaning
Individual to groups
Group or batch rearing
How to train your calves
How much milk to feed

Individual till weaning

Of all the systems, this is the most labour intensive but gives the greatest control and observation of your calves.

For the best results, follow the simple rule, One Calf : One Teat.
By allocating a new Milk Bar™ Teat to each new calf you can be sure she is feeding at the right speed throughout her development.

For young calves, a new Milk Bar™ Teat has the perfectly controlled flow for saliva production which is crucial to boost immunity.
As the calf and teat age, the milk flow becomes slightly faster but is still controlled enough to improve lactose absorption and increase ADG.

For easy calf management, keep the same feeder with the same calf from birth till weaning.
If you mix feeders between calves, there is a danger of giving a young calf an older, more worn teat which can lead to health problems like diarrhoea and poor performance.

It's simple to either number your feeders and hutches or use the Milk Bar™ Colour Code system to immediately make sure that each calf has her own feeder.

Identify feeders with Milk Bar™ Colour Code or numbers


  1. Fit a new Milk Bar™ Teat to your single feeder.
  2. Either number or colour code the feeder and the hutch.
  3. This feeder stays with this calf until weaning.
  4. After weaning, replace the old, worn teat with a new Milk Bar™ Teat ready for the next calf.


  1. Daily rinse and twice a week use an Alkali Detergent with a hot wash.

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Perfect feeders for individually raised calves!

Top Tip! The Vitality System

The Milk Bar™ Vitality System was designed specifically for individual, bottle fed calves. The special Aligning Socket stops calves pushing the bottle out of the holder and makes sure the teat is in the right position for perfect milk delivery. Each teat fits into a coloured teat clip so all you need to do is match the teat clip to the hutch tag to be certain that every calf is drinking from the right teat!

Learn more

Individual to groups

This system is the best of both worlds, an individual housing start gives you great observation of young calves and then transitioning to a group slashes your time.

The trick with this system is to make sure calves are drinking from a teat which is the same age as the calf.

We developed the Milk Bar™ Follow the Teat System to make this as simple and user friendly as possible.

  1. Fit a new Milk Bar™ Teat to your Milk Bar™ single feeder.
  2. Either number or colour code the feeder and the hutch.
  3. This feeder stays with this calf for 10 days or whatever your preferred time frame is.
  4. When you have enough calves to make a group, remove the Milk Bar™ Teat from each of the single feeders and insert them into the group feeder. 
    This group feeder now stays with these calves until weaning. 
  5. Place a new Milk Bar™ Teat into the now unneeded Milk Bar™ single feeder ready for the next new calf. 

Important: Making sure calves get enough milk volume is vital. There should be no more than two-week age difference in calves.

Bigger calves need more milk so it's best to group large calves together.



  • Daily rinse and twice a week use an Alkali Detergent with a hot wash.

Allocate all calves born in Week 1 a colour, for example, Orange.
Feeder and pen are tagged with orange tags.

When calves are ready for a group, take the Orange Tagged Milk Bar™ Single Feeders and tag a Milk Bar™ Group Feeder with an Orange tag.

Take the Milk Bar™ Teat from the single feeder. In this case, the Milk Bar™ 1 4L with its great teat attachment makes this easy!

Place the Milk Bar™ Teats from the single feeder into the group feeder.

This group feeder now stays with these calves until weaning.
Simple, easy and no mistakes.
With the right milk flow from start to finish, these ladies will fulfil their full potential!


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No matter what your rail type, we have a feeder to suit!

Top Tip! Use a Milk Bar™ Plug for spare holes

Sometimes you might not have quite enough calves to make a full group on a feeder.

Instead of wasting a Milk Bar™ Teat to plug the hole, pop a Milk Bar™ Plug in to seal the hole. Milk Bar™ Plugs are available in packs of ten.

Learn more

Group or batch rearing

We love to see calves in groups. They interact and zoom around and, in the winter, lie close together for warmth.

For farmers in New Zealand, Ireland and Australia, group feeding from Day 1 is normal.
In fact, we're pretty sure we've never seen an individual system in any of these countries!
Calves are born in the spring so there is a large volume of calves in a short time to make grouping of calves the same age an easy task.

There are many benefits to group feeding, most significantly the reduction of time, labour, and the improvements in calf behaviour. Cross suckling can be a barrier to group feeding, however there is a simple fix, slow the milk flow, regulate the intake and calves stop cross suckling!

A lot of study is being done around the benefits of group feeding.
A study at the University of British Columbia found that pair-housed calves continued to gain weight after weaning while individually housed calves experienced a lag in weight gain after weaning. Group or pair-housed calves also experience group learning. In a study performed at Utah State University, calves housed in groups learned to eat calf starter at an earlier age than calves housed individually. Consumption of calf starter promotes rumen development to increase feed efficiency.

  1. At the start of the season or for each new batch of calves, put new Milk Bar™ Teats into your group feeders.
  2. At weaning, discard the worn teats and at the start of the new season or batch of calves, place new Milk Bar™ Teats so the next wave of calves starts with the right flow of milk.
  • Daily rinse and twice a week use an Alkali Detergent with a hot wash.

Small groups, or large groups, we've got a feeder to suit!

Research Tip! Reduce cross suckling by controlling milk flow

Calves fed from a fast teat or a bucket will immediately suckle each other’s navels and udders post feeding making group feeding a challenge. 
The Milk Bar™ Teat resolves this issue so calves can be group fed with minimal risk.

‘During the trial, it was observed that group-housed calves fed the faster flow teats had a much greater incidence of hyperactivity immediately post feeding and were more likely to engage in non-nutritive sucking of each other’s body parts (including muzzle, navel and udder). ’ Source - Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition

How to train your calves

The Milk Bar Teat works in harmony with the digestive system. Because there is no valve in the teat, calves can suckle the teat in the same way as they would from a cow. The suckling instinct kicks in to make training easier.

Any teat with a valve changes the way calves drink from a natural suckling to a pump action. It’s not marketing, it’s simply the truth.
It’s tempting to use a fast flow teat to train young calves. The idea is that the faster flow will encourage calves to latch on. There are a couple of things to watch for if you use a fast flow teat:

  1. Check the calf can swallow easily and that she’s not struggling to breath.
  2. Check she is producing thick saliva. This is important to strengthen immunity.

The post birth protocol should stimulate the calf to stand up and look for feed. Giving the calf a good rub in long firm strokes not only dries her off but stimulates blood flow and ‘wakes her up’.
Provide a draft free space for new-born calves, with a heat lamp in the winter.
When she starts to try to stand up then she is ready to feed.

Use a Milk Bar™ bottle or single feeder fitted with a Milk Bar™ Training Teat with fresh colostrum (or colostrum replacer containing IgG), then follow these steps:

Gently back the calf into a corner and straddle her. This settles her to make training easier.

Put some colostrum on your index finger and gently press the roof of the mouth to check the suckling urge is strong.

Place the Milk Bar™ Training Teat in the calf’s mouth and gently squeeze and release the jaw.

The teat opens, and colostrum enters the mouth.

The role of the colostrum

A calf’s immune system is not fully developed when it is born, and she must rely on passive immunity from colostrum until her own immune system is developed at 1 to 2 months of age. Colostrum contains the antibodies or immunoglobulins (IgG) to protect the calf from disease.

When the calf is born the gut is still ‘open’ so the antibodies are able to pass through the wall and straight to the bloodstream. By 24 hours the gut begins to close, and it is difficult for the calf to absorb the antibodies as the intestine becomes impermeable to large proteins.
Studies have shown that:

  • Six hours after birth, calves absorbed 66 % of the immunoglobulins in colostrum
  • 36 hours after birth calves were able to absorb only 7% of immunoglobulins.
  • As well as immunity, colostrum contains approximately 22% solids, compared to 12 % solids in normal whole cow's milk.
  • Much of the extra solid material in colostrum is immunoglobulin, but colostrum is also an important source of protein, sugar, fat, and vitamins A and E

Using a Milk Bar™ Training Teat has a double benefit during this period. The saliva produced while suckling further boosts immunity and because the action is natural to the calf, she is super easy to train!

Generally, a calf should receive 5 to 6 % of its body weight as colostrum within the first six hours of life, and another 5 to 6 % of its body weight when the calf is 12 hours. For example: 40kg calf receives 4 – 4.8L

First Day

0 – 6 Hours: feed 2 – 2.4L
Key Benefit: IgG Absorption

6 – 12 hours: feed 2 – 2.4L
Key Benefit: IgG Absorption

12 – 24 hours: feed 2 – 2.4L
Key Benefit: IgG Absorption

Day Two

24 – 36 hours: feed 2 – 2.4L
Key Benefit: IgG Absorption

36 – 48 hours: feed 2 – 2.4L
Key Benefit: Essential proteins and minerals. 
High fat.

Day Three

Feed 4 - 4.8L split over two or three feeds.
Key Benefit: Essential proteins and minerals. 
High fat.

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How much milk to feed?

Calves need milk. More milk than they often get. There are lots of regimes being promoted so it’s hard to know what the right amount is, however, if you work on the rough rule of a minimum of 12.5% of bodyweight in temperate climates, you can’t go too far wrong.

A 60kg calves needs around 7.5L per day so ideally use scales or a weigh tape to make sure calves are getting enough milk. 
If you have a mixed weight group, scale up rather than down. This makes sure the bigger calves have enough, the smaller calves will just have better daily gains!
Don’t worry, the controlled flow of the Milk Bar™ Teat prevents nutritional diarrhoea if some calves get more volume than they need.

It’s worth feeding a little bit more than not quite enough to get better Average Daily Gain (ADG).
Good ADG has positive outcomes such as better conception rates and increased first lactation milk production. 

Week 1-3

  • All energy comes from colostrum or milk. A calf takes no energy from grain during the first few weeks, so it is important to feed enough milk to meet all energy needs. 
  • Starter ration in the diet is important from week one to start rumen development.

Week 4

  • Now the rumen is starting to develop. Small amounts of energy are taken from ration, but the majority of energy is still from milk.

Week 6

  • By the end of the week six (42 days) the rumen should be developed enough for milk to be reduced. If the calf is eating 700 grams of starter ration per day, then the milk volume can start to be reduced. 

Week 12

  • The rumen should now be developed enough for the calf to continue to grow on pasture, pasture-based feeds or grain-based feeds depending on your feeding regime.


  • To prevent weight loss at weaning it is important the calf has had ad lib starter ration from Week 1. When the calf is eating 700gms of starter ration the milk can start to be reduced and be fed once a day.  Providing the calf is consuming a minimum of 1kg of grain or has doubled its birth weight it can be weaned from 8 weeks.

Do not go to once a day feeding under 42 days. 
Ideally calves on once a day milk feeding should be fed in the evening. The calf will then sleep on a full stomach but will be hungry during the day. With ad lib concentrate available they will consume more to accelerate rumen development. 

Don’t forget! In cold weather you need to increase the volume by 2% every degree under 5°C. So if the milk volume is 7.5 L:

  • At 4°C increase 2% = 7.6 L
  • At 0°C  increase 10% = 8.25 L
  • At -5°C  increase 20% = 9.0 L

To work out volumes for best results, then knowing the energy value is important. A 40kg calf requires 6.8 MJME per day for maintenance in fair conditions and will require more energy in cold, draughty, or damp conditions.
Calves need 11.4 MJME (Mega Joules of Metabolisable Energy) to gain 1 kg of live weight.

Example: For a 40kg calf to gain 0.8kg per day it requires a minimum of 15.9 MJME (6.8 for maintenance plus 80% of 11.4 MJME to gain .8kg). This equates to 5.3 litres of whole milk.

Available MJME (approximate) per product:

Whole milk- 3 MJME/Litre  Colostrum- 3.4 MJME/Litre 
Whole milk powder- 21.9 MJME/kg Starter ration- 11-13 MJME/kg DM


 Calf live weight in KG 35 40  50  60  70  80  90  100 
 MJME required for maintenance  6.2 6.8 8.1 9.3 10.4  11.5 12.6  13.6
 MJME required to gain 0.8kg/day  9.1 9.1  9.1  9.1  9.1  9.1  9.1  9.1 
 Total daily MJME required  15.3 15.9  17.2  18.4  19.5  20.6  21.7  22.7

Source: Dexcel factsheet


If that's a bit complicated and your feeding whole milk, this is what we feed our trial calves.

  Calf Heart Girth CM Weight (approx) Colostrum Litres Milk Litres Feeding Times Grain kg
Day 1 70 40 4.7   Split into 2 -3 feeds  
Day 2     4.7   Split into 2 -3 feeds  
Day 3     2 3 Split into 2 -3 feeds  
Week 1 74 44   5.0 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 2 80 50   5.3 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 3 84 56   5.7 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 4 86 61   6.0 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 5 88 67   6.2 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 6 92 73   6.4 Split into 2 feeds Ad Lib
Week 7 94 79   4.0 1 feed - Evening Ad Lib
Week 8 98 84   4.0 1 feed - Evening Ad Lib


These ladies test everything for us and they look really really good...

Research Tip! The Buddy System

There is a lot of work being done about housing calves in twos from day one. 
This system is often referred to as the Buddy System. Studies in the US and Canada show improvements in feed and weight uptake and the cognitive development in calves raised in pairs.

This study, performed by the University of Kentucky gives some nice detail on the Buddy System. 

Read more


The biggest drawback for calves in twos is that if they are fed from a bucket or a fast flow teat, they cross suckle vigorously. The damage cross suckling causes can have a long term impact to the calf's future production capability so it is especially important they are fed with a Milk Bar Teat to control the flow. 

Read more

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