Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Cereals instead of milk substitute in the diet of veal calves

The possibility to replace the milk substitute in the diet of the veal calf by cereals was studied in three feeding trials with 224 calves. The aim of the study was to reduce the production costs and to improve the image of veal production. The animals of the experimental group received either rolled barley or whole grains of maize ad libitum in addition to whole milk containing added minerals and vitamins which was either fed to appetite in buckets twice a day or was constantly available via automatic milk feeders. In each trial the control animals received a standard diet of whole milk plus a milk substitute (representing about 70 % and 30 % of the dietary DM) which was rationed and was fed in buckets. The intake of barley and maize, which contain little iron, had no negative effect on meat colour. The bucket fed experimental animals ingested large quantities of milk. As a consequence, their performance was comparable to that of the control animals. Cereals were ingested in addition to the milk and had no effect on the performance and health of the bucket fed animals. When milk was offered via automatic milk feeders, cereal intake affected milk intake: The calves ate more than twice as much of the cereals but consumed less milk than the animals receiving milk in buckets. As a consequence, fattening performance was significantly lower and fleshiness tended to be inferior in calves fed via automatic milk feeders. The replacement of milk substitute by cereals did not always result in a reduction of the feeding costs. The feeding of cereals can therefore not be recommended if the replacement of milk substitute and the reduction of the feeding costs are the only objectives. The fact that cereal intake resulted in a slightly less pronounced reduction of blood haemoglobin levels, may on the other hand improve animal welfare and the image of veal production.

To the archive