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Reducing milk induced cross-sucking of group housed calves by an environmentally enriched post feeding area

Ude, Gracia; Georg, Heiko and Schwalm, Anja (2011) Reducing milk induced cross-sucking of group housed calves by an environmentally enriched post feeding area. Livestock Science, 138 (1), pp. 293-298.

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Online at: doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2010.12.004


Group housing of calves is an animal-friendly natural and economic way of raising calves. One major disadvantage of artificial milk feeding in group housing systems, however, is the incidence of cross-sucking.
The main objective of this study was the evaluation of tructural and technical modifications of the feeding stall of an automatic teat feeder and the environmentally enriched feeding area in relation to a reduction of cross-sucking after finishing a milk meal.
The experiment was carried out with 168 female calves (German Holstein) of one origin randomly assigned to two treatments: control group and optimized group with a furnished post feeding area and an exercise yard with environmental enrichment. Calves were fed by an automatic teat feeder according to schedule starting with 7 L whole milk per day and calf.
Cross-sucking and general behaviour was observed for 20 min directly after the milk meal.
Observations were made at three age levels on two consecutive days. Depending on the age group, cross-sucking behaviour of calves in the optimized group was signi!cantly lower (11.9 to 17.2%) compared to the control group (58.6 to 73.7%). Based on the age, mean duration of cross sucking bouts showed in the control group were signi!cantly higher (79.0 to 122.5 s) than the bouts of the optimized group (39.0 to 65.0 s). With an increase of age the calves of the optimized group used the post-feeding area !rst with an average duration of 129.0 s and later with an average duration of 416.0 s. Corresponding to this result, calves of the optimized group left the feeding stall signi!cantly faster (13 s) than the reference group (61 s). Despite those facts, the presence of a post feeding area and its interior had no signi!cant effect on feeding behaviour regarding concentrates and hay and other behaviour observed in relation to the milk meal.
Our results indicated that adding a post feeding area to an automatic milk feeding system can significantly reduce cross-sucking of group housed calves related to milk intake by simultaneously increased performance of the feeder. However, future research is needed to evaluate interactions between feeding techniques, environment and physiological processes related to cross-sucking behaviour of calves.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:Dairy calves, Post feeding area, Organic farming, Group-housing, Cross-sucking, Animal behaviour
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Dairy cattle
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: Germany > Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries - VTI > Institute of Organic Farming - OEL
Related Links:http://www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/livsci/article/S1871-1413(10)00605-0/abstract
Deposited By: Rahmann, Prof. Dr. Gerold
ID Code:19874
Deposited On:11 Jan 2012 10:14
Last Modified:11 Jan 2012 10:14
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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