Investigation of weaning strategy and solid feed location for dairy calves individually fed with an automated milk feeding system
Journal of Dairy Science
The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of 2 gradual weaning programs and 2 locations of solid feed within individual calf pens on feed intake, growth, and behavior of calves fed milk by an automated milk feeder. Using a 2 × 2 factorial design, 60 female calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 weaning treatments and 1 of 2 solid feed placement treatments. Calves were assigned to a continuous gradual weaning program (CG) or a multi-step gradual weaning program (MG). Calves
... ned to the CG treatment had their milk allocation reduced in small, equal increments from 12.5 L/d on d 43 to 2 L/d on d 56. Calves assigned to the MG treatment were offered 10 L/d on d 43 to 45, 8 L/d on d 46 to 49, 6 L/d on d 50 to 52, and 3 L/d on d 53 to 56. Solid feed was placed either at the front of the pen adjacent (ADJ) to where the automated milk feeder offered milk or at the back of the pen on the opposite (OPP) side from where the milk was offered. All calves were offered 12.5 L/d of milk replacer from d 2 to 42, fresh solid feed (5% chopped wheat straw mixed with 95% calf starter pellet) from d 5 onward, and ad libitum water starting d 0. Calves were weaned from d 43 to 56 and additionally monitored from d 57 to 70. No interactions of effects of weaning and feed location treatment were detected. Both MG and CG calves had similar water and solid feed consumption, blood β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations, and behavior. By design, calves on the CG treatment consumed greater amounts of milk during the weaning phase than MG treatment calves (6.7 vs. 6.3 L/d), which resulted in milk drinking behavior differing between the treatments during the weaning phase. Although average daily gain and body weights were similar between treatments, MG calves had greater middle girth gain during wk 7 compared with CG calves (0.6 vs. 0.3 cm/d). Calves on the ADJ treatment consumed 16.7% more solid feed and 0.55 L/d more milk during the preweaning phase compared with OPP treatment calves. In all 3 phases, ADJ treatment calves consumed more water than OPP treatment calves. The ADJ calves spent more time consuming solid feed during the 10-wk period. The ADJ treatment calves had 10% greater average daily gain compared with OPP treatment calves during the preweaning phase. Overall, the results indicate that both gradual weaning treatments resulted in similar performance and behavior. However, placement of solid feed next to the milk source was demonstrated to increase feed, water, and milk intake during the preweaning stage, contributing to greater growth.