Growth of the modern calf

This project is looking for optimal growth of young cattle in the period from 6 months to calving. This concerns 1. the effects of glucogenic and lipogenic nutrients on the energy metabolism and 2. the (automatic) monitoring of growth.

Most knowledge about optimal growth of young cattle is outdated and not based on the current dairy type dairy cow. Commercial feed concepts are often aimed at the fastest possible growth, so that the age of calving can be lowered. The consequences for health in later lactations and on the lifespan are not certain. It is therefore important to investigate the effects of different ratios between starch and fiber-rich rations on these characteristics. This project is part of the Dairy Cattle and Smart Farming research program.

Dual purpose

Development of objective automated methods to record the growth of young cattle, with the aim of realizing an optimal growth curve and relating it to longevity and life production.

Investigating the effect of nutrient composition (energy from starch versus cell walls) on the growth and body composition of finches during their youth growth and gestation period, measured with new camera techniques, with the ultimate aim of improving animal health and extending the life of dairy cattle.


A brief literature study will be started to evaluate recent developments in the area of optimal growth of the current milk-typical Holstein Friesian calves, in the period from approximately 6 months to calving. In addition to nutritional aspects, the possibilities for monitoring growth are also being examined.

Based on the literature, it is decided how the experimental research will be set up, including the composition of test rations, the readout parameters and points for attention. The plan is to start with 80 heifer calves from the age of 6 months and measure the youth growth in 2 test rations up to pregnancy and then continue with 2 other rations until calving.

Expected results

The end result is a report that indicates how the growth of young cattle from approximately 6 months to calving can be monitored automatically. It discusses important points for attention in the growth curve, and how the source of energy (starch versus fiber and cell walls) may play a role in the balance between growth and fat. The report will be widely communicated in press and trade journals.