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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

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Record number 562512
Title Cow-calf contact and common diseases in dairy calves
Author(s) Wenker, M.L.; Verwer, Cynthia; Reenen, C.G. van; Boer, I.J.M. de; Bokkers, Eddie
Source In: WIAS Annual Conference 2020. - WIAS - p. 74 - 74.
Event WIAS Annual Conference 2020, Lunteren, 2020-02-13/2020-02-14
Department(s) Animal Health & Welfare
Animal Production Systems
Publication type Abstract in scientific journal or proceedings
Publication year 2020
Abstract High morbidity and mortality rates among young dairy calves in the Netherlands have raised societal concerns. Naturally, maternal care is essential for survival of offspring in mammalian species. Yet, it is common practice to separate dairy cows and calves within a few hours after birth. Knowledge on the effects of maternal care on health in dairy calves is currently lacking. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of most common diseases in dairy calves raised with various levels of cow-calf contact. Thirty-two Holstein calves were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: 1) no contact with their mother by separation at birth and being housed in the young stock barn, 2) allowed to have physical contact with their mother but prevented from suckling by being housed in calf pens within the cow barn, 3) allowed to be in full contact with their mother including suckling by being housed together with the cows in the cow barn. Cow-calf contact was allowed until 10 weeks of age. Clinical scores of two major diseases (i.e. diarrhoea, respiratory disorders)were obtained once a week. Preliminary results show that the prevalence of diarrhoea in the first 4 weeks of life (when all calves were still on high milk allowances) did not to differ among treatments (no contact=33.3%, physical contact=37.5%, full contact=54.2%;p=0.27). However, only 7.7% of the full contact calves needed treatment with oral electrolytes compared to 66.7% of no contact calves and 85.7% of physical contact calves. Prevalence of respiratory disease in the first 7 weeks of life (before gradual separation strategies were initiated) was higher for full contact calves (47.3%) compared to no contact calves(19.0%; p=0.01) or physical contact calves (22.4%; p=0.001). Yet, the percentage of sick calves treated with antibiotics did not differ among treatments (no contact=25.0%, physical contact=27.3%, full contact=23.1%). These results indicate that cow-calf contact does not reduce morbidity rates, as the climate of the cow barn could put new challenges to the young calves’ immune system. Nevertheless, full contact with the mother may improve the resilience of calves, since they needed less therapeutic treatment once they were diagnosed with diarrhoea or respiratory disorders. Further analysis of blood and manure samplesshould give more insight into the mechanisms behind these findings.
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