Hand-feeding better for calf’s health

3 February 2020

Hand-feeding a calf is labour-intensive. You have to mix water and milk powder, lift buckets and then fill the teat buckets several times a day. An automatic milk feeder can save you a lot of work. However, this study has shown that calves that were hand-fed suffer from diarrhoea considerably less than automatically fed calves.

All calves at 30 dairy farms were assessed for the following, on a scale from 1 to 5: hair coat, alertness, condition, diarrhoea/thin muck and respiratory infection/coughing. One striking aspect is that hand-fed calves score better on all fronts compared to those that are fed via an automatic milk feeder. When it comes to diarrhoea/thin muck, the difference is almost a full point in favour of hand-fed calves. Regarding respiratory infections, the difference is more than 0.5 points in favour of hand-fed calves. Calves that suffer from diarrhoea or respiratory problems demand a lot of extra labour from dairy farmers. Also, these animals perform poorer, which means the time saved by using an automatic milk feeder is likely to be lost as a result. We expect that the differences are caused by the daily checks that can be done at the same time as hand-feeding milk. Working with a automatic milk feeder requires high standards for check ups and calf care. Only than a automatic milk feeder can contribute to a better calf rearing with less labour.

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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