Number of pages: 6
Type of document: Conference Paper
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Related to: Keeping calves and cows together
More information on authors/freelancers connected to LBI :
Jan-Paul Wagenaar MSc.
Language of document: English
Title in English: Happy Dutch organic calves: suckling systems in organic dairying in the Netherlands
Abstract / summary in English:
Organic dairy farmers in The Netherlands, supported by the Louis Bolk Institute, developed a calf rearing system in which newborn heifer calves suckle their mother or a nurse cow up to three months of age.
Consumers played an important role. Their critical questions made farmers take the initiative to investigate and develop an alternative way (more animal friendly) to raise organic dairy calves. Increased animal welfare and health were the focus of system development, but the practical and economic feasibility of the rearing system also received attention. Farmers implementing a suckling system aim to raise well-developed dairy cows that fit easily into the dairy herd and are adapted to the existing farming conditions. Natural bonding between calves and cows is allowed: calves suckle their mother or nurse mother. The development and implementation of the calf rearing system was followed in three consecutive phases, and aspects of calf health, housing, and milk production were assessed. Suckling of the mother or a nurse cow had a positive effect on the live weight developments of the calf. During the process some practical problems had to be solved. However, suckling systems seem a worthwhile contribution to enhance animal welfare in organic dairying.