Abstract In a 6-wk study with 3-d-old calves (n=32), we compared effects of low or adequate essential fatty acids in milk replacers on calf performance, feed utilization, and fatty acids in blood plasma, heart, and liver lipids. Four dietary treatments were hydrogenated coconut oil, as low-essential fatty acid basal; basal plus linoleic acid; basal plus linoleic plus linolenic acids; tallow control. None of the calves fed low essential fatty acid diet developed any external deficiency signs seen in monogastric animals. Supplementation of basal diet with essential fatty acids had no influence on weight gains, feed efficiency, or digestibility of lipids, nitrogen, and dry matter. Effects of low essential fatty acid intake were decreased resistance of erythrocytes to lysis, and in tissue lipids, marked reduction of linoleic acid and elevation of trienoic acid, palmitoleic acid, and ratio of trienoic acid to arachidonic acid, all indicative of low essential fatty acid status. Essential fatty acid intake in milk replacer may be more important than indicated here for longer term vealer calves, and where stresses, such as infectious diseases and high environmental temperature, are present.