Original Research

The effect of unrestricted milk feeding on the growth and health of Jersey calves

J. L. Uys, D. C. Lourens, P. N. Thompson
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 82, No 1 | a33 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v82i1.33 | © 2011 J. L. Uys, D. C. Lourens, P. N. Thompson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 April 2011 | Published: 13 April 2011

About the author(s)

J. L. Uys, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa. Present address: Weideland Dairy Farm, PO Box 150, Heidelberg, 6665 South Africa., South Africa
D. C. Lourens, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa., South Africa
P. N. Thompson, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa., South Africa

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Abstract

This study was conducted to determine the effect of feeding high milk volumes on the growth rate, health and cross-sucking behaviour in group-fed Jersey calves. Three-day-old heifers (n = 120) in a seasonal calving dairy herd were randomly assigned to one of 6 treatment groups. Three groups received high milk volumes (HMV), consisting of ad libitum milk or milk replacer feeding twice a day, while 3 groups received restricted milk volumes (RMV), consisting of 2 twice daily, during the pre-weaning period. After a pre-weaning period during which feeding was reduced to once daily, all calves were weaned at 42 days and monitored until 60 days of age.Adjusting for birth mass, birth date,damparity and sire, average daily mass gain (ADG), both pre-weaning (days 0–42) and overall (days 0–60), was higher inHMVthan inRMVcalves (P<0.001).After weaning, growth rates showed no differences and at 60 days of age the HMV calves maintained a 6.74 kg advantage in mean body mass (P < 0.001). The mean intake of dry starter feed was higher in RMV than in HMVcalves. Overall feed conversion rate ofHMVcalves was 9.6%better thanRMVcalves. However, the variable cost per kg mass gain was 12 % higher for HMV calves. In the RMV groups 75 % of calves showed cross-sucking behaviour pre-weaning and 18 % post-weaning, whereas in HMV calves the proportions were 2 % and 7 %, respectively. There was no significant effect of milk volume on the incidence of diarrhoea.We conclude that the feeding of high volumes of milk to Jersey calves has a positive effect on growth rate, without compromising health or reducing solid feed intake after weaning. However, the higher cost of such a feeding system may limit its implementation.

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