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Effect of Type of Cow-Calf Contact on Health, Blood Parameters, and Performance of Dairy Cows and Calves

Wenker, Margret L. and Verwer, Cynthia M. and Bokkers, Eddie A. M. and te Beest, Dennis E. and Gort, Gerrit and De Oliveira, Daiana and Koets, Ad and Bruckmaier, Rupert M. and Gross, Josef J. and van Reenen, Cornelis G. (2022). Effect of Type of Cow-Calf Contact on Health, Blood Parameters, and Performance of Dairy Cows and Calves. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 9 , 855086
[Research article]

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Abstract

Prolonged cow-calf contact (CCC) could potentially improve dairy calf welfare. However, it is currently unknown how different types of CCC affect animals' biological functions. We evaluated health and performance parameters of dairy calves and their dams, where calves: (i) had no contact with their dam (NC), in which the calf was removed from the dam directly after birth (n = 10); (ii) were allowed to have partial contact (PC) with their dam, in which the calf was housed in a calf pen adjacent to the cow area allowing physical contact on the initiative of the dam but no suckling (n = 18); (iii) were allowed to have full contact (FC) with their dam, including suckling, in which calves were housed together with their dams in a free-stall barn (n = 20). Throughout the first 7 weeks postpartum, data were collected on the health status, fecal microbiota, hematological profile, immune and hormonal parameters, and growth rates of calves, and on the health status, metabolic responses, and performance of dams. Overall, FC calves had more health issues (P = 0.02) and a tendency for higher antibiotic usage (P = 0.07) than NC calves. Additionally, FC calves showed elevated levels of erythrocytes, hematocrit, hemoglobin, and leukocytes on day 49 compared to NC calves (P < 0.001). Calf fecal microbiota changed over time, and we found preliminary evidence that fecal microbiota is affected by the type of CCC, as reflected by differences in relative abundances of taxa including Lactobacillus in FC calves compared to NC and PC calves except on days 7 and 66. The FC calves had a greater average daily gain in body weight than NC and PC calves (P = 0.002). Cow health was not affected by the type of CCC, although in the first 7 weeks of lactation FC cows had a lower machine-gained milk yield accompanied by a lower fat percentage than NC and PC cows (P < 0.001). These results indicate that full contact posed a challenge for calf health, presumably because the housing conditions of FC calves in this experimental context were suboptimal. Secondly, ad libitum suckling leads to higher weight gains and negatively affected milk fat content besides machine-gained yields. More research into strategies to improve cow-calf housing and management in CCC systems is warranted.

Authors/Creators:Wenker, Margret L. and Verwer, Cynthia M. and Bokkers, Eddie A. M. and te Beest, Dennis E. and Gort, Gerrit and De Oliveira, Daiana and Koets, Ad and Bruckmaier, Rupert M. and Gross, Josef J. and van Reenen, Cornelis G.
Title:Effect of Type of Cow-Calf Contact on Health, Blood Parameters, and Performance of Dairy Cows and Calves
Series Name/Journal:Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Year of publishing :2022
Volume:9
Article number:855086
Number of Pages:19
Publisher:FRONTIERS MEDIA SA
ISSN:2297-1769
Language:English
Publication Type:Research article
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Published version
Copyright:Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 402 Animal and Dairy Science > Animal and Dairy Science.
Keywords:suckling, cow-calf separation, maternal care, hematology, biological functioning, calf rearing conditions
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-117062
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-117062
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
DOI10.3389/fvets.2022.855086
Web of Science (WoS)000791820500001
ID Code:27794
Faculty:VH - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science
Department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:12 May 2022 16:25
Metadata Last Modified:12 May 2022 16:31

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