Have You Herd? AABP PodCasts

Socially Housed Dairy Calves

March 29, 2021 AABP
Have You Herd? AABP PodCasts
Socially Housed Dairy Calves
Chapters
Have You Herd? AABP PodCasts
Socially Housed Dairy Calves
Mar 29, 2021
AABP

In this episode, Dr. Whitney Knauer from the University of Minnesota discusses social housing of dairy calves. Group housing of calves is increasing. We discuss the different types of socially housed calves such as large groups of more than 15 calves, small groups of 3-8 calves and paired calf housing. She identifies some of the challenges of group housing such as disease detection, cross sucking and competition for milk. Dr. Knauer offers some tips for veterinarians to work with their producers to address these challenges and overcome them. We review some of the studies and her research on paired calf housing which demonstrate a benefit to the calf as well as the producer. Paired calves have better average daily gain, eat more starter grain before and after weaning, and there is a tendency for higher weaning weights. She also notes that paired housed calves are better socialized which results in decrease stress of weaning. Dr. Knauer states that paired housed calves vocalize less and lay down more after weaning when moved to group pens. A major benefit to paired housing is that it is easy to implement with current calf housing systems on most farms, therefore the financial input needed is minimized. The farm footprint devoted to calf facilities is not increased with paired housing and she states that pairing calves allows for 30% more calves to be raised utilizing the same footprint. She recommends that each calf have its own hutch and the square footage should be doubled if pairing or tripled if housing 3 calves together. In addition, each calf should have its own starter grain and water bucket. Calves can be paired at birth and she suggests no more than 7 days age difference in calves that are paired together. We can learn from the animals we care for and attempt to mimic their natural behavior with our housing and management systems to improve health, welfare and productivity. Dr. Knauer suggests that it is easy to setup an on-farm trial utilizing paired housing to see the benefits to the calf on your producer’s operations!

 We encourage you to join AABP so that you can enjoy the many member benefits our organization provides, including providing up to date scientific CE and research updates! Click here to join today!

 Relevant articles:

 Knauer WA, Godden SM, Rendahl AK, Endres MI, Crooker BA. The effect of individual versus pair housing of dairy heifer calves during the preweaning period on measures of health, performance, and behavior up to 16 weeks of age. J Dairy Sci. 2020 Dec 23:S0022-0302(20)31077-8. doi: 10.3168/jds.2020-18928

 Liu S, Ma J, Li J, Alugongo GM, Wu Z, Wang Y, Li S, Cao Z. Effects of Pair Versus Individual Housing on Performance, Health, and Behavior of Dairy Calves. Animals (Basel). 2019 Dec 25;10(1):50. doi: 10.3390/ani10010050. 

 Costa JH, Meagher RK, von Keyserlingk MA, Weary DM. Early pair housing increases solid feed intake and weight gains in dairy calves. J Dairy Sci. 2015 Sep;98(9):6381-6. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-9395. 

 Ollivett TL, McGuirk SM. Comparing groups pens to individual pens for inside feeding of dairy calves – top 10 considerations. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Conference. American Association of Bovine Practitioners. 2015. Sep. https://doi.org/10.21423/aabppro20153527  

Show Notes

In this episode, Dr. Whitney Knauer from the University of Minnesota discusses social housing of dairy calves. Group housing of calves is increasing. We discuss the different types of socially housed calves such as large groups of more than 15 calves, small groups of 3-8 calves and paired calf housing. She identifies some of the challenges of group housing such as disease detection, cross sucking and competition for milk. Dr. Knauer offers some tips for veterinarians to work with their producers to address these challenges and overcome them. We review some of the studies and her research on paired calf housing which demonstrate a benefit to the calf as well as the producer. Paired calves have better average daily gain, eat more starter grain before and after weaning, and there is a tendency for higher weaning weights. She also notes that paired housed calves are better socialized which results in decrease stress of weaning. Dr. Knauer states that paired housed calves vocalize less and lay down more after weaning when moved to group pens. A major benefit to paired housing is that it is easy to implement with current calf housing systems on most farms, therefore the financial input needed is minimized. The farm footprint devoted to calf facilities is not increased with paired housing and she states that pairing calves allows for 30% more calves to be raised utilizing the same footprint. She recommends that each calf have its own hutch and the square footage should be doubled if pairing or tripled if housing 3 calves together. In addition, each calf should have its own starter grain and water bucket. Calves can be paired at birth and she suggests no more than 7 days age difference in calves that are paired together. We can learn from the animals we care for and attempt to mimic their natural behavior with our housing and management systems to improve health, welfare and productivity. Dr. Knauer suggests that it is easy to setup an on-farm trial utilizing paired housing to see the benefits to the calf on your producer’s operations!

 We encourage you to join AABP so that you can enjoy the many member benefits our organization provides, including providing up to date scientific CE and research updates! Click here to join today!

 Relevant articles:

 Knauer WA, Godden SM, Rendahl AK, Endres MI, Crooker BA. The effect of individual versus pair housing of dairy heifer calves during the preweaning period on measures of health, performance, and behavior up to 16 weeks of age. J Dairy Sci. 2020 Dec 23:S0022-0302(20)31077-8. doi: 10.3168/jds.2020-18928

 Liu S, Ma J, Li J, Alugongo GM, Wu Z, Wang Y, Li S, Cao Z. Effects of Pair Versus Individual Housing on Performance, Health, and Behavior of Dairy Calves. Animals (Basel). 2019 Dec 25;10(1):50. doi: 10.3390/ani10010050. 

 Costa JH, Meagher RK, von Keyserlingk MA, Weary DM. Early pair housing increases solid feed intake and weight gains in dairy calves. J Dairy Sci. 2015 Sep;98(9):6381-6. doi: 10.3168/jds.2015-9395. 

 Ollivett TL, McGuirk SM. Comparing groups pens to individual pens for inside feeding of dairy calves – top 10 considerations. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Conference. American Association of Bovine Practitioners. 2015. Sep. https://doi.org/10.21423/aabppro20153527