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Extending Cow Longevity by Improving Calf Management Practices

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Project Overview

Increased longevity of dairy cattle is key to a sustainable dairy industry. Calves are the future of the lactating herd and research has shown that producing healthy calves can translate to adult cows with higher production and increased longevity. The objective of this project was to investigate the association between herd and calf management practices, and adult cow productivity, health and longevity.

What Did the Research Team Do?

The association between calf genomics, early life rearing practices, and adult cow productivity and longevity was investigated by researchers from the University of Prince Edward Island and McGill University. Data on genomics, production, longevity, and calf care practices were collected from over 200 cows on 8 dairy herds in New Brunswick. Researchers investigated if these calf management factors influenced a cow’s removal from the herd in early (<120 days in milk) or late lactation (>120 days in milk).

What Did the Research Team Find?

  • Good colostrum management is a key contributor to raising healthy calves and is associated with improved adult cow longevity and productivity. Specifically:

    • Feeding colostrum from the dam 1-2 hours after birth

    • Feeding higher planes of colostrum at first feeding (2 or more litres)

    • Feeding colostrum replacer or colostrum from the dam rather than pooled colostrum

  • Calf health impacts adult cow productivity. Raising healthy calves with low incidence of disease, and appropriately identifying and treating calf diseases when they occur, leads to more productive cows as adults. Diseased and untreated calves also showed decreased first lactation milk fat yields when compared to both healthy and untreated calves, and when compared to healthy and treated calves.

  • Weaning calves at a higher weight was associated with improved productivity as adult animals. For every 1 kg increase in weaning weight, milk, protein, and fat yields in the first lactation were increased by 25.50 kg, 0.82 kg, and 1.01 kg respectively.

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Principal Investigators

Greg Keefe
University of Prince Edward Island

J Trenton McClure
University of Prince Edward Island

Co-Investigators

Elsa Vasseur
McGill University

Luke Heider
University of Prince Edward Island

Débora Santschi
Lactanet

Key Words

  • Calf health, longevity, productivity, sustainable dairy industry

Period: 2018-2023
Budget: $244,141

Last Updated: January 05, 2024

Funding Partners

PROJECT COMMUNICATION OUTPUTS

Increasing Cow Longevity and Production by Improving Pre-Weaning Calf Management

INFOGRAPHIC

Increasing Cow Longevity and Production by Improving Pre-Weaning Calf Management

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Extending Cow Longevity by Improving Calf Management Practices

Extending Cow Longevity by Improving Calf Management Practices