As I mentioned in my last column, I've received several questions from readers about the calf care column I wrote for the January 30, 2016 issue of the Dairy Star: "Zero deaths in baby calves." I am encouraged by the interest in this topic.
Here are the answers to those questions:

How much do you feed your calves?
We feed each calf a gallon of colostrum at birth. At the next feeding, we offer four pints (two quarts) of colostrum again. We continue feeding four pints (two quarts) of first or second milking colostrum at each feeding until day three.
Then we start increasing the volume of whole milk fed at each feeding, from five pints to six pints (three quarts) by the end of day five, for a total of six quarts a day. To be more exact, our three-quart bottles are usually filled to the brim, so each calf is actually getting closer to seven quarts of milk a day.
When calves move onto our automatic calf feeder, they are fed a 22:20 all-milk milk replacer. The volume of milk replacer fed increases from six liters a day to eight liters over two days. Occasionally, I will increase the volume fed up to 10 or 12 liters for a calf with a really big appetite (as measured by visits to the feeder). Our milk replacer is mixed at a concentration of 140 grams of powder to one liter of water. This concentration is lower than what milk replacer manufacturers suggest feeding; instead, it is the same concentration as whole milk, which we feel contributes to better digestion. Feeding a larger volume of milk also increases satiety.

What about colostrum replacers?
I mentioned that we feed real colostrum, not replacer, if at all possible - from the calf's mother or another cow, if available. We use colostrum replacer as a last resort because we found that calf immunity scores are highest when real colostrum is fed.
Our farm was part of the University of Minnesota's automatic calf feeder research project. One part of the project was collecting blood samples from newborn calves to measure IgG levels, which is the gold standard for determining transfer of passive immunity in calves. Calves that received colostrum replacer for their first feeding consistently tested lower than calves who received real colostrum. These tests also showed us that calves that consumed multiple feedings of first and second milking colostrum had higher IgG levels.

Isn't feeding colostrum and transition milk for several days a lot of extra work?
Yes. Bottling up extra colostrum, finding room in the fridge to cool it, and then warming it at feeding time is more work than feeding fresh milk right after milking. It's not that much more work than measuring water, making sure it's the proper temperature, weighing out milk replacer, mixing it and filling bottles.
But feeding extra colostrum is a lot less work - and worry - than caring for sick calves. Around here, tension levels reach palpable levels when we have sick calves.
That said, I realize that feeding extra colostrum the way we do might not work for every farm. In that case, I would recommend the method used by several farmers we know: freezing first-milking colostrum in ice cube trays and then dropping a cube of colostrum into each bottle for at least the first two weeks.
Given everything we're learning about colostrum's role in promoting growth, as well as preventing disease, feeding colostrum cubes until weaning might make sense (and cents).

Who can I ask for help with my calves?
All that we know about calf care is an accumulation of trial-and-error experience and the practical advice we've received from a number of people. Those people include veterinarians, nutritionists, other dairy farmers, and a college nutrition professor.
We have benefited from always having a relationship with a third-party veterinarian. This vet is someone we don't do on-farm work with, but someone we can email or call when problems arise. It's nice to have someone outside of the situation who can provide additional perspective.
Thanks again to those who took time to write. Please remember that what I've shared here is what works on our farm and I'm sharing it in hopes of contributing to conversations about calf care. If you want better calf health on your farm, work with your team to find a system that works for the people, calves, and facilities on your farm.
May baby calf health continue to improve on all of our farms.