Swiss Federal Research Station for Animal Production, Posieux

Housing young winter born calves in hutches

112 dairy calves which were born between November and March were assigned alternately to the groups housed in individual fibreglass hutches (55 calves) or in individual pens in a stable (57 calves) for the first two weeks of life. All calves were fed colostrum and later on whole cow’s milk twice a day in amounts per meal corresponding to 5 % of their birth weight. Mean outside temperatures were about 0°C in December and January and between +2 and + 6 °C during the rest of the trial period. The stable temperature was above +10°C. Diarrhoea caused by cryptosporidia, rota- and coronavirus was the main health problem. One calf housed in a hutch and 6 calves housed in the stable died of diarrhea (P = 0.07). Daily weight gain of the surviving calves housed in the hutches and in the stable was 317  188 g and 228  206 g (P = 0.01). Mortality and growth data show that housing newborn calves in hutches has a positive influence on their health. Body temperature and plasma glucose levels which were determined in one week old calves before they received their morning feed were within the normal range and thus did not indicate the presence of severe cold stress in calves kept at low environmental temperatures

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