In February 2020, a large-scale practical study into calf rearing started on more than 100 Dutch dairy farms, including the Dairy Campus. The aim is to optimize the rearing of calves during the first 14 days after birth on the dairy farm, so that the calves have a healthy start and can develop into productive and robust dairy cows or veal calves.
Free play for germs
Calves are born weekly on dairy farms. During the first two weeks of life, all calves stay on the dairy farm and sophisticated nutrition, care and hygiene are important for good health and growth of the animals. The calf does not yet have a well-functioning immune system at birth and is difficult to fight infections. It is known from science that the supply of colostrum (many, fast, often and fresh) is important for the absorption of sufficient antibodies (IgG) and for good passive immunity against possible pathogens. In addition, the build-up of active immunity also takes place in the first weeks. In the period when passive immunity decreases and active immunity builds up, exposure to germs poses a risk to calf health.
Decrease infection pressure
In this project, we investigate how a farmer can keep the risk of infection - and ultimately disease - in the calf as low as possible during the first weeks of life. The starting point for reducing infection pressure is the practical situation in which the farmer works every day. To properly visualize these, 100 dairy farms are visited by lecturer-researchers and students, who take measurements and map the operational management during calving and calf rearing. In addition, lecturer researchers and students follow five companies intensively for 12 months to investigate the course of infection pressure over a year. Project partners are also developing various tools for the farmer and his advisers to support the calf rearing. During the course of 2 years, the theme of infection pressure around the young calf is discussed during theme days, in education and in publications, so that the insights of the project can be applied directly in practice. Fewer infections in young calves can ultimately lead to better youth growth and stronger calves.
Practice-oriented research into infection pressure and calf rearing