Calf management: Individual or paired housing affects dairy calf health and welfare

David. S. McFarland, Lorna. M. McFarland, Darren Shaw, Alastair Macrae

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Previous research has indicated that preweaned dairy calves reared in pairs compared to indi-vidually have improved performance and indicators of animal welfare. One hundred and thirty Holstein female calves completed the trial, with eighty-five allocated to paired housing, and forty-five calves allocated to individual housing. Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG), treatments and mortality were recorded through the pre-weaning period. Salivary cortisol, latency to feed and latency to approach a novel object were assessed at batching. There were no significant differences found in DLWG, mortality and disease treatments between the average of the pair and the indi-vidually housed calves, although the pair reared calves were quicker to approach the milk feed after batching, and interacted more quickly with a novel object. The heaviest born calves within the pair had the highest DLWG from birth to weaning, with a higher percentage of calves approaching the novel object, compared to the lightest born calf within the pair. This study has shown that calves within a pair may have significantly different performance and welfare during the preweaning period, with the heavier calf outperforming and displaying less fear and more exploratory be-haviour than the lighter calf within a pair
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number11
Early online date23 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 May 2024


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