Animal performance and stress at weaning when dairy cows suckle their calves for short versus long daily durations - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Animal Year : 2022

Animal performance and stress at weaning when dairy cows suckle their calves for short versus long daily durations

Abstract

Calves in most dairy farms are separated from their dams either immediately or within a few hours after birth, prompting increasing concern of the society for reasons of animal welfare. The aim of this study was to identify systems to maintain cow-calf contact (CCC) that balance the benefits for calf growth and health against the negative impacts on sellable milk and stress at weaning. We tested reuniting cows and calves for 20 min before (Before-group) or 2.5 h after (After-group) morning milking (in Trial 1) or for a 9 h period between the morning and evening milkings (Half-day-group, in Trial 2). In Control groups, calves were separated from their dam at birth and fed with artificial nipple with tank milk provided daily at 13% (Trial 1) and 14% (Trial 2) of their BW. In both trials, each practice was applied on a group of 14 dam-calf pairs (7 Holstein [Ho] and 7 Montbeliarde [Mo]). All calves were weaned at a BW of at least 100 kg. In Trial 1, the After-group was prematurely stopped when the calves were eight weeks of age as calf growth became limited (340 g/d) due to low milk intakes (2.97 kg/d). During the first eight weeks of lactation, milk yield at the parlour was 29%, 51% and 42% lower in After-, Before-and Half day-cows respectively compared to Controls. From week 14 to 16 when all calves were separated from their dam, Before-cows still produced 25% less milk than Control-cows while Half-day-cows reached the milk yield of Control-cows within a week. There were no significant differences in milk somatic cell count and in frequency of health disorders (cows and calves) between suckling and Control-groups. Compared to Control-calves, calf growth until weaning was higher in the suckling calves in Trial 1 (861 vs 699 g/d) and similar in Trial 2 (943 vs 929 g/d). At weaning, Before-and Half-day-calves started to vocalise earlier and continued to vocalise longer than Controls. In conclusion, the best compromise between cow milk yield and calf growth is a long period of CCC (9 h) between the morning and evening milkings. Still abrupt weaning stresses both cows and calves even if CCC has been restricted before separation.(c) 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.

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hal-03682979 , version 1 (31-05-2022)

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A. Nicolao, Isabelle Veissier, M. Bouchon, E. Sturaro, Bruno Martin, et al.. Animal performance and stress at weaning when dairy cows suckle their calves for short versus long daily durations. Animal, 2022, 16 (6), pp.100536. ⟨10.1016/j.animal.2022.100536⟩. ⟨hal-03682979⟩
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