Calf Milk replacers: Skim and whey-based - what’s the difference?

Providing the optimal nutrition for a calf’s early stages of growth are essential for future health and profitability. That’s why choosing the right CMR is critical not just for the first few weeks of a calf’s life, but an investment into lifetime yield.


Skim-based CMR

A skim-based CMR includes a high proportion of skim ingredients originating from milk processing.

•  Whole milk powder

•  Skim milk powder

•  Butter milk powder

•  Casein fat-filled milk powder

(These are all classified as skim milk powder on the CMR label.)

A Skim-based replacer is ideal for producers preferring to feed a milk akin to maternal whole milk, or those requiring calves with a visible ‘bloom’, ideal if you’re looking to sell at two to three weeks old. The protein in skim is found in the form of Casein.  

Skim is the only CMR that should be fed to calved who are fed once per day because of the slower digestion of the proteins, compared with whey.

Whey-based CMR

A whey-based CMR includes whey ingredients originating from whey processing, for example:

•  Whey powder

•  Delactosed whey

•  Whey permeate

•  Whey protein concentrate

(These are all classified as whey milk powder on the CMR label.)

This product may suit best when a lower cost CMR is needed, with few management, hygiene or disease challenge. Whey is also versatile, with it being an ideal choice for combined rearing systems. Proteins in whey can be found in the forms of albumin and globulin.


Both skim and whey-based calf milk replacers include the required amount of amino acids to meet the calf’s requirement and there should be no difference in performance in average daily gain, starter feed intake and feed conversion efficiency of calves reared on either type of CMR.


Both options provide the necessary amino acids for a calf’s needs. There should be no difference in daily gain, starter feed intake and feed conversion efficiency of calves reared on either type of CMR. The key difference is that the casein in skim-based CMR coagulates in the abomasum forming a curd, whereas the albumin and globulin in whey-based CMR remain as a liquid for a shorter time, before moving to the small intestine for further digestion.


Buying advice

The source of skim and whey ingredients used in the CMR should always be checked. Labels are often general, and the quality of the raw materials making up skim or whey-based CMR or the proportions they represent in a milk replacer will not be disclosed. Neither will the label reveal how they have been processed, dried or manufactured. Therefore, use a trusted supplier and check these details carefully. Using a trusted and reliable supplier whilst checking these details carefully, can help you get the best performance from the CMR and therefore calves.


Our top tips:

  • Use a trusted supplier and a high-quality product

  • Consider your production objectives

  • Ensure good sanitation of feeding equipment

  • Follow the mixing instructions provided on packets carefully. Temperature, concentration, and volume are necessary to follow for optimal nutrition.


Provimi Bartholomews Logo.jpg