Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau FiBL, 5070 Frick, Schweiz

Milk instead of concentrate feed in claf rearing

To promote efficient grassland utilisation and reduce resource use, it is necessary to minimize the amount of concentrates fed to ruminants. Research findings and practical knowledge are available concerning dairy cow management without concentrates, but there is not much literature on rearing calves without concentrates. Textbooks on animal feeding usually recommend calf rearing with concentrates. In this project, we compared two groups of 7 calves of the same breed and age in the same barn: animals in group 1 received 141 kg of concentrates and 500 kg of milk over 5 months. Animals in group 2 received 1100 kg milk over 5 months and no concentrates. All animals received hay, water, and mineral salt ad lib. Calves did not differ in terms of health, weight gain, periods of lying or walking, roughage feeding or drinking behaviour, frequency of agonistic behaviour, vocalisation, and licking themselves. However, in group 1, there were more events of cross sucking and object sucking. Rumen development was the same in two slaughtered calves, one from each group. Calf rearing without concentrates seems to bear no risk concerning animal development and health and seems to reduce behavioural disorders, but it is more expensive.

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