Practical implications of increasing 'natural living' through suckling systems in organic dairy calf rearing; Theme: Values in Organic Agriculture

J.P. Wagenaar, D.J. Langhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The introduction of suckling systems in organic dairy calf rearing has the potential to enhance animal welfare in terms of ‘natural living’ and to live up to consumers’ expectations about organic agriculture. This study describes the implications of suckling systems in a practical organic dairy context. Results show that farmers can successfully develop and implement a suckling system in calf rearing. The consumption of mothers’ milk resulted in high weaning weights at 3 months of age. No immediate animal health problems linked to suckling systems occurred. Compared with traditional bucket feeding of milk, suckling systems resulted in increased natural behaviour such as calff–cow bonding, natural sucking behaviour and care-taking behaviour. Some farmers had difficulties accepting negative implications of suckling systems such as stress after weaning and loss of marketable milk. Although suckling of the own mother was seen as the most natural suckling system, farmers adapted their suckling system to calves suckling nurse cows. In order to implement successfully a suckling system, farmers have to step back from control and give calf and cow a chance. In the case of increasing ‘natural living’ through implementation of a suckling system, farmers should be encouraged to take enough time to accomplish this attitude change.
The introduction of suckling systems in organic dairy calf rearing has the potential to enhance animal welfare in terms of 'natural living' and to live up to consumers' expectations about organic agriculture. This study describes the implications of suckling systems in a practical organic dairy context. Results show that farmers can successfully develop and implement a suckling system in calf rearing. The consumption of mothers' milk resulted in high weaning weights at 3 months of age. No immediate animal health problems linked to suckling systems occurred. Compared with traditional bucket feeding of milk, suckling systems resulted in increased natural behaviour such as calf-cow bonding, natural sucking behaviour and care-taking behaviour. Some farmers had difficulties accepting negative implications of suckling systems such as stress after weaning and loss of marketable milk. Although suckling of the own mother was seen as the most natural suckling system, farmers adapted their suckling system to calves suckling nurse cows. In order to implement successfully a suckling system, farmers have to step back from control and give calf and cow a chance. In the case of increasing 'natural living' through implementation of a suckling system, farmers should be encouraged to take enough time to accomplish this attitude change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-386
JournalNJAS Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Volume54
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • milk quality
  • animal behaviour
  • paratuberculosis
  • weaning
  • suckling
  • dairy cattle
  • organic farming
  • calves
  • cows

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