The effects of fast feeding

Fast teats are common, so digestive problems with calves are also common. It’s easy to think it’s just part of raising calves but fast flow teats disrupt the digestive process and are key contributors to many of the digestive problems we see in calves.

To stop a gravity feed teat from leaking, manufacturers will insert some sort of non-return valve or flap into the back of the teat. This changes the way the calf drinks, so instead drinking with the controlled sucking action she would when drinking from a cow, the milk is forced into her mouth, and she gulps quickly.

She learns to pump the teat with her jaw and drinks very quickly, often less than 1 minute per litre. Imagine how your stomach would feel if you drank that quickly! With this pumping and gulping, she produces very little saliva. Saliva has antimicrobial properties to boost immunity and it also balances the pH for digestion. Without saliva, things start to go wrong.

These are the signs calves will show you if the milk flow is too fast:

  • They can be unsettled when drinking, coming on and off the teat (breakaway behaviour). They step back and cough during feeding
  • After feeding they are hyperactive and try to suck on anything around them (cross suckling)
  • They will have some nutritional diarrhoea

Feeding with a fast flow teat impacts lactose absorption and average daily gain. This means you need to feed calves for longer to get the same weight gains as you would if they were drinking with a Milk Bar™ Teat.

A good team with intense management protocols can keep calves growing with a fast flow teat. There is a high time and labour cost that is often not calculated with intense calf management.

There is a much easier way; control the flow and prevent these problems to start with!

The take-home message

By using the Milk Bar™ Teat's controlled flow, you can prevent problems before they start to reduce time and management!