The number of calves reared in groups is increasing. If the calves are reared in small groups, they can be fed from buckets with or without teats or from small containers connected with teats via tubes. In big groups the simplest solution is ad libitum feeding from the containers with teats or from automatic feeders. Recently, the computer-controlled milk feeding system has become more common. Good production results have been obtained in large groups with ad libitum feeding of milk but there can be problems, especially, when weaning the calves. When calves obtain milk ad libitum they usually eat little concentrates and this can lead to post weaning lag in growth. One disadvantage of ad libitum feeding is the economic feasibility of this system compared to restricted feeding, because milk amounts drunk are so big. The risk of infection is higher in groups, whatever the milk feeding method is, and this can lead to health problems in big groups. Not many experiments about the effect of the computer-controlled milk feeding system on feed intake, growth, and health of dairy calves have been carried out, especially with big groups of 25-30 calves. According to farm questionnaires especially the incidence of respiratory disease has been increasing when group feeding with the computer-controlled milk feeding systems has been installed. More knowledge is needed about problems with big calves disturbing milk intake of smaller calves, the best age and method to introduce the calves to the equipment, and detection of illnesses according to the intake data.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||Department of Animal Science, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 28, Helsinki 00014, Finland.email@example.com|
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