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Impact of enhanced compared to restricted milk feeding on the health and well-being of organic dairy calves

Ivemeyer, Silvia; Preußer, Johanna; Haager, Daniela; Simantke, Christel; Mayer, Prisca; Kull, Kristina; Utz, Gesa; Knierim, Ute and Winckler, Christoph (2021) Impact of enhanced compared to restricted milk feeding on the health and well-being of organic dairy calves. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, x, x-y. [Submitted]

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Summary

In an experimental multi-site study, we investigated the effects of an increased level of milk feeding (10-12 l/d, ≙ 14-16% of the calves’ body weight, ‘MilkPlus’ (MP)) compared to common restricted milk feeding (6-8 l/d, ≙ 10-12% of body weight, ‘Control’ (C)). Data from 10 dairy farms (nine certified organic, one near-organic), originally applying restricted milk provision by bucket-feeding in Austria (Fleckvieh; 4 farms) or Germany (Holstein Friesian; 6 farms) were analysed concerning calf welfare. Per farm, 6-15 female calves were randomly allocated to the treatments MP and C, which were applied over the milk feeding period of 13 weeks, with about three weeks of milk reduction starting in week 11. Data were recorded during the milk feeding period in weeks of life 3/4, 7/8, 11/12 (±2 days) as well as after weaning in week 15/16. This included welfare measures relating to behaviour, observed from video-recordings (manipulating other calves, manipulating objects, vocalization, duration of feeding solid feed; observation time: 320 min per day distributed over 16 h), to health (clinical scoring), and to performance (weight gain). MP calves tended to have higher body weights at the end of the milk feeding period (weeks of life 11/12: MP 111.0 kg, C 104.4 kg) and shortly after weaning (weeks of life 15/16: MP 138.7 kg, C 131.1 kg; pgroup*time point =0.095) and had higher daily weight gains during the milk feeding period (week 3/4 to 7/8: MP 939 g/d, C 818 g/d; week 7/8 to 11/12: MP 1082 g/d, C 956 g/d; p=0.025). C calves manipulated other calves more frequently only in week 3/4 (MP 2.6, C 4.5 times per 320 min, p<0.001), with no differences later. Clinical health and manipulation of objects showed no association to milk amounts, but the latter decreased when feeding duration of solid feed increased (p<0.001). C calves spent more time with solid feed during the milk feeding period (week 7/8: MP 9.8% of observed time, C 12.0%, week 11/12: MP 14.4%, C 17.7%; p=0.008). Calves’ vocalization was on average on a low level, but with large individual variation. MP calves vocalized more after weaning (MP 1.6, C 0.5 times per 320 min, p<0.001), though time spent with solid feed and weight gain (MP 983 g/d, C 995 g/d) were then similar between treatments. We conclude that twice-daily (teat-)bucket feeding of enhanced milk amounts under commercial organic or near-organic conditions had limited positive welfare effects.


EPrint Type:Journal paper
Agrovoc keywords:
Language
Value
URI
English
dairy cattle
http://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_2108
English
behaviour
http://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_868
English
organic farming -> organic agriculture
http://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_15911
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Beef cattle
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: Germany > Federal Organic Farming Scheme - BOELN
European Union > CORE Organic Cofund > ProYoungStock
Austria > Univ. BOKU Wien
Germany > Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food - BLE
Germany > University of Kassel > Department of Farm Animal Behaviour and Husbandry
H2020 or FP7 Grant Agreement Number:727495
Deposited By: Ivemeyer, Dr. Silvia
ID Code:42915
Deposited On:09 Dec 2021 09:38
Last Modified:09 Dec 2021 09:38
Document Language:English
Status:Submitted
Refereed:Submitted for peer-review but not yet accepted

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