Automated feeding systems are growing in popularity for dairy farms in America, but little is known about how these systems are managed. This study investigated the usage of automated feeders, and the implications of management practices for calf morbidity and mortality. Barn design, environmental and management factors were determined on 38 farms in the upper Midwest USA through a combination of questionnaire and on-farm measurements. These measurements were used to describe the current management practices of farms, identify risk factors for adverse calf health outcomes and calf mortality, and to determine best practices for the use of automated feeders. Among factors measured, those associated with early life procedures (colostrum management, navel disinfection), grouping strategies (age of calves at grouping, stocking density, group size, and age difference between the oldest and youngest animals in the group), feeding management (peak milk allowance, days to reach peak milk allowance), milk contamination (bacterial counts in the liquid diet exceeding recommended levels), and seasonal climatic variation were significantly associated with calf health outcomes. Overall, the outcomes observed in this study indicate that automated calf feeding systems can be effectively managed to provide high quality care for preweaned animals, while more consistency is needed in colostrum management and automated feeder cleaning and maintenance. More research is needed to investigate the causal relationships between factors identified in this work with calf health outcomes, particularly focused on encouraging good postnatal practices, calf grouping strategies, bacterial contamination of the feeder unit and of milk delivered to calves, and strategies for the mitigation of calf health issues resulting from seasonal environmental changes
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2016. Major: Animal Sciences. Advisor: Marcia Endres. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 122 pages.
Dairy calf health and welfare in automated feeding systems in the upper Midwest USA.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.