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Open Access Research

Effect of milk feed source, frequency of feeding and age at turnout on calf performance, live-weight at mating and 1st lactation milk production

David Gleeson* and Bernadette O’Brien

Author Affiliations

Livestock Systems Department, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork, Ireland

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Irish Veterinary Journal 2012, 65:18  doi:10.1186/2046-0481-65-18

Published: 18 October 2012

Abstract

Female calves (n = 108) were assigned to 6 cold milk feeding treatments in two experiments for a 70-day period. Live-weight (LW) was measured weekly, with an additional LW taken at day 410 and post-calving for animals in experiment 1. In Experiment 1, the effect of feeding frequency and age of turnout to pasture on calf performance and 1st lactation milk yields were evaluated. The whole milk (WM) feeding treatments applied were (i) once daily feeding (OD), (ii) twice daily feeding (TD), (iii) OD feeding, outdoors at 38 days (ODO). In Experiment 2, the effects of feeding milk replacer (MR) as opposed to WM and age of turnout to pasture on calf performance were evaluated. The treatments applied were (i) OD feeding with WM (OD), (ii) OD feeding with milk replacer (MR) (ODMR), (iii) OD feeding with MR, outdoors at 38 days (ODMRO). Experiment 1: There were no differences (P > 0.05) in LW or average daily gain between TD and OD calves at day 80 or 410. ODO calves had lower LW at day 80 as compared to OD or TD (P < 0.001). Calf LW at day 80 was 86, 89 and 85 kg and at day 410 was 304, 309 and 316 kg for OD, TD and ODO, respectively. Milk feeding frequency or time of calf turnout had no effect on LW post calving, milk composition or 1st lactation milk yields. Experiment 2: Total LW at day 80 was higher (P < 0.05) for ODMR compared to OD or ODMRO calves. Calf LW was 87, 95, and 88 kg for OD, ODMR and ODMRO, respectively. However, LW at day 410 did not differ between treatments.

This study showed that while some differences were observed in calf LW at day 80, these differences had no effect on LW at day 410 or 1st lactation milk yield. It can be concluded that calves can be successfully reared when fed OD with WM or MR, indoors and when turned out to pasture at 38 days of age.

Keywords:
Calves; Feeding frequency; Calf performance; Outdoor rearing