Pair housing of dairy calves in modified individual calf hutches : an on-farm demonstration
The objective of this study was to determine if pair housing using a modified calf hutch on a commercial dairy farm would provide similar benefits to those previously described in research settings. Despite many benefits (e.g. improved weight gain and reduced fearfulness) of housing calves in small groups, individual calf hutches are still common in North America. This study took place on a commercial farm in the lower Fraser Valley region of British Columbia from May to December 2016. A week
... mber 2016. A week after birth, calves were randomly assigned to individual (n = 14) or paired (n = 8 pairs) hutches. Our modified pair hutch consisted of 2 individual hutches placed next to each other with both calves having access to both hutches and a common run. Calves were fed milk 2/day (d) using a nipple bottle, 6 Litres (L)/d from d 1 to d 7, 10 L/d from d 8 to d 35, and 6 L/d until d 60 (weaning). Ad libitum access to calf starter (solid food) and water was offered throughout the experiment. Feed intake was measured weekly until calves were 67 ± 5 d old. Body weight (BW) and health measures were recorded weekly until the calves were 88 d old. Calves were exposed to a novel food test at 60 d; the amount of food consumed in 30 minutes, and the latency to approach the novel food was measured. Pair housed calves ate more starter (0.89 (0.72 - 1.08) vs. 0.48 (0.42 - 0.56) kg/d; geometrical mean (confidence interval)) than individually housed calves. Pair housed calves also ate almost 3 times more food during the novel food test (154.13 ± 26.85 vs. 57.84 ± 19.55 g). There was no difference in BW or in the latency to approach the novel food. In conclusion, joining adjacent hutches is an option for pair housing that results in reduced fearfulness and increased solid food intake relative to individual hutches.