Dairy Calf Health and Welfare

The dairy calf is the fundament for tomorrow’s milk production. Although loose housing systems for cows with new technology long have entered the arena, the care for calves has not changed accordingly.

Our research has focused on feasible ways to allow contact between the dairy cow and her calf, which traditionally are separated shortly after birth. This practice prevents maternal behaviour, and rearing in isolation may impair cognitive development of the calf. However, there are both opportunities and challenges to keeping them together, and our research aims at addressing and solving these in order to make the system feasible for commercial farms.

Another area of research is how to ensure adequate passive immunity of the calf. We have studied factors which influence on cow colostrum quality, management of colostrum to calves, and new non-invasive methods to measure calf immune status.

For decades, there has been a belief that milk portion size given to calves should be restricted to avoid milk from ending up in the rumen where milk can cause digestive disorders. We showed that this assumption is wrong. Higher milk allowances and preventing calf hunger is another research focus.