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Milk feeding systems for dairy calves in groups: effects on feed intake, growth and health.

By H. Hepola

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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.

Date 2003
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 80
Issue 3
Pages 233-243
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00214-9
Author Address Department of Animal Science, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 28, Helsinki 00014, Finland.helena.hepola@helsinki.fi
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal health and hygiene
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Calves
  5. Cattle
  6. Dairy animals
  7. Feeders
  8. Feed intake
  9. Growth rates
  10. Lung diseases
  11. Mammals
  12. Milk and dairy products
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Respiratory tract infections
  15. Reviews
  16. risk factors
  17. Ruminants
  1. peer-reviewed