Housing calves in small groups on a slatted floor instead of straw gives better growth results. This also applies to feeding an increased amount of milk powder.
These are two results of the long-term InnoCalf project. A total of 224 calves on Dairy Campus were intensively monitored from 0 days to 18 weeks. The study was carried out by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) on behalf of ForFarmers, Trouw Nutrition and VDK Agri.
The calves housed in the CalfOTel system, a housing system with a rubber floor instead of straw, weighed an average of 8.5 kilos more than the reference group at 18 weeks of age. These calves were also given fewer antibiotics during the trial: 0.8 days compared to 2.79 days for the reference group.
The longer individual housing - three weeks instead of one week - and the smaller group size with less age difference could explain the results found, the researchers indicate. A drawback of the rubber floor, the researchers say, is that the calves kept on this floor are clearly dirtier than the other calves.
Higher growth through more milk
A trial with milk powder was also part of the project. This shows that the calves with an increased milk yield grew faster than the calves that received an "optimal" milk yield. After 18 weeks, the animals that received an increased gift were on average 4.8 kg heavier. The calves in the group with the increased gift were also cleaner than the animals that received the "optimal" gift.
Trouw Nutrition and ForFarmers stick to their advice to give the "optimal" gift. The extra pounds of milk powder are too pricey compared to the last pounds of extra growth they generate.
In the April issue of Veeteelt, which was published last week, Veeteelt dedicates a background article to the InnoCalf project.