1,000 grams of growth with correct nutrition and housing

3 February 2020

Calves that are fed and housed well can grow by as much as 1,000 grams per day during the milk period. It is not just the cattle farmer’s awareness and efforts that play a major role, so do the right housing and approach.

Diarrhoea and respiratory problems are the main diseases during the first year. Housing plays an important role in both cases. It is important for calves to be housed in a dry and draught-free environment. By using the right accommodation, you will prevent health problems at a later age.

Young calves (0-3 weeks) are almost always housed individually. This makes it easier to check them and health issues are discovered quicker. Also, most calves are less exposed to other calves, reducing disease pressure. This is another important aspect because young calves have little resistance at this age.

Calves aged 3 weeks to 3 months have built up less resistance than older young stock. Furthermore, there are a lot of stress moments during this period, such as weaning, disbudding and moving calves from their individual hutch to group housing. So as to safeguard a calf’s health, it is important not to make all these changes at the same time. Instead, make no more than one change per week. This will benefit the calves’ health and growth.

Figure 1, Main diseases during the first year (MSD, sd).

At the dairy farms that were studied, calves in the age group of 3 weeks to 3 months show the biggest lack of weight development compared to the standard. This age category also suffers most from diarrhoea or respiratory problems. This is the most vulnerable period, because the maternal immunity obtained via the colostrum decreases and the calf is still building up its own immunity. This group of animals, therefore, deserves the highest level of care. One striking conclusion from the study is that calves who are fed by means of an automatic milk feeder suffer from diarrhoea more than those that are hand-fed.

Young stock rearing process deserves attention

Janne van de Ven, student at the Has Hogeschool conducted a study into the growth, health and time spent during the young stock rearing process. Dairy farms often pay less attention to this process, because in the short term, it has a lesser influence on operating results compared to the care of dairy stock. However, a good young stock rearing process definitely yields a return. Examples include a lower calving age of heifers, extra milk during the first lactation and more room for phosphate because there is no need to keep so much young stock. A longer rearing process means more rearing days, which cost an average of € 2.50 per day. The study was conducted among 30 dairy farms.This article is based on the study results.

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