Effect of rearing on immune parameters of calves

This project investigates the effects of an innovative form of calf housing, in combination with an innovative ration during rearing, on parameters of the immune system of calves. This information is combined with data on clinical health, growth and feed efficiency. It provides knowledge that can be used to renew and optimize rearing systems for calves on dairy farms.

In practice, the calf rearing is often not optimal, partly due to a lack of attention, time and a clear working method. This can result in disappointing calf development, health problems (respiratory tract / diarrhea) and a high loss in the first year of life. A good calf rearing is therefore an essential condition for a healthy, sustainable dairy cow. This means that a good rearing of the heifer can not only prevent problems in the life stage of the young animal, but must also be regarded as an investment in the future.

Immune system research

This project is part of the larger 'InnoCalfConcept' for which planned observations on clinical health and growth are already being carried out. Immune parameters include: uptake of colostrum immunoglobulins, antibodies to major pathogens in calves, acute phase proteins in blood, and calves' reactivity to vaccination. Carrying out these additional observations provide new knowledge about the effects of (early) housing and nutrition on the health and resistance of calves. This regards:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of housing calves in small or large groups for the health and resistance of the animals.

  • The positive effect of an increased amount of calf milk on the resistance of calves expected from the literature.

  • The predictive value of a certain "immune profile" at a young age and its performance, for example in terms of growth and development, at a later age.

Expected results

Results of the study are reported in a research report, publications in the agricultural trade press and scientific publications. Reports and highlights of the project will also be available via the websites of Responsible Animal Husbandry, Dairy Campus and newsletters such as the Attentiemail Cattle Husbandry.