What are the factors that lead some managers to switch to group rearing of wet calves? What costs are associated with switching to such a system? How easily do calves adapt to it? Michigan State University researchers Miriam Weber Nielsen and Mike VandeHaar address these questions and more in an article published in the latest issue of the Michigan Dairy Review.
They cite the following advantages to group housing:
- Smaller, more frequent meals for calves
- Consistency in feeding
- Reduced labor needs; and
- Flexibility in labor tasks
The authors say the benefits to calves include increased activity, social stimulation and growth, noting that the freedom of activity and free-choice feeding create a more positive public image compared to more conventional systems. Disadvantages to group rearing include risk for disease transfer and cross-sucking.
The researchers gathered data from four farms that have adopted group housing in recent years. Reasons they cite for switching include:
- Utilizing existing buildings to house more calves
- Reduced labor
- Better calf performance; and
- Impressed with group-reared calves they had seen at other operations.
Read more insights from the MSU researchers and view a table that compares the experiences of the four farms.
Source: Michigan Dairy Review