Group Care of Baby Calves - Changing the Paradigm

Date: 

2011 to 2012

Summary: 

Group housing of calves with its attendant use of waste milk in a safe manner offers economical and biological advantages to producers. Previously held beliefs regarding disease risk have been changed with a new definition of proper ventilation and the advantages of more natural feeding methods and social interaction amongst baby calves.

Issue: 

Traditional wisdom has warned against raising young dairy calves in group situations, fearing rampant spread of potentially fatal diseases. Research backed by farm based experiences has shown that poor outcomes can be avoided with group housing if enhanced environmental and nutritional management is exercised. Debunking the myths surrounding intensified feeding of milk and milk replacer to calves has been a slow process, but necessary to achieve effective group rearing. Awareness of the need to properly ventilate barns of group housed calves of this age in concentrated numbers has been lacking. Information related to hygienically feeding grouped calves on an ad libitum basis has not been generally available either.

Response: 

Attended by 57 individuals, a local meeting describing the principles of group calf housing and feeding led to two symposia on the subject that were attended by a total of 550 people. Farm tours of adopters of this management practice were done in conjunction with the 2011 symposia. One hundred and fifteen individuals toured three regional farms in the NWNY team area, and another 282 did so in other areas around NY. Statewide replication of the symposia program in the form of the Winter Dairy Management series in early 2012 resulted in 45 participants regionally and 368 throughout the state. Producers, veterinarians, academics, and industry personnel were part of the symposia audiences.

Impact: 

The list of known group-housed and fed calf operators in New York has almost tripled from 40 to 114 over the two-year period. The use of waste milk, formerly in need of pasteurization in order to limit bacterial growth and extend retention time, has had renewed interest with the defined preservation technology. The economic impact has been significant as a result in the following ways: conserving nutrient valuable but bacterially questionable milk, reducing reliance on purchased milk replacer, growing calves at a greater rate, reducing medicine costs, using less bedding and cutting labor costs.

Submitted by: 

  • Bertoldo, Gerald R

Researchers involved: 

  • Bertoldo, Gerald R
  • Conway, John F

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • California
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Delaware
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

New York State focus: 

  • Allegany
  • Broome
  • Cattaraugus
  • Cayuga
  • Chautauqua
  • Chemung
  • Chenango
  • Clinton
  • Cortland
  • Delaware
  • Dutchess
  • Erie
  • Franklin
  • Fulton
  • Genesee
  • Greene
  • Herkimer
  • Jefferson
  • Lewis
  • Livingston
  • Madison
  • Monroe
  • Niagara
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga
  • Ontario
  • Orleans
  • Otsego
  • Rensselaer
  • Saratoga
  • Schuyler
  • Seneca
  • St. Lawrence
  • Steuben
  • Tioga
  • Tompkins
  • Wayne
  • Yates