Strategies for keeping dairy cows and calves together – a cross-sectional survey study

SND-ID: 2022-37-1.

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Citation

Creator/Principal investigator(s)

Karin Alvåsen - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences orcid

Research principal

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences - Department of Clinical Sciences rorId

Principal's reference number

SLU.kv.2022.IÄ-3

Description

Interest in keeping dairy calves with adult cows for a period of time after calving is increasing among consumers and dairy farmers. At present, however, it is largely unexplored how dairy farmers implement cow-calf housing on their farms. This survey therefore investigated how dairy farms with cow-calf contact managed their animals during the time that cows and calves are in contact. In addition, it evaluated which aspects of management were perceived as most challenging, and how farmers dealt with these challenges. Interviews were conducted on 104 dairy farms from six European countries. The farms kept cows and calves together for at least 7 days, and sold milk to dairies. The respondent could be either the owner or the farm manager. Cow-calf farming was practised on farms with a wide range of management systems, from small farms that kept their animals outdoors throughout the year and milked cows by hand or in mobile clamp milking machines to robotic farms. Calves could be kept with the dam or foster cow for part or all of the milking period. Daily contact time varied between farms, from 15

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Interest in keeping dairy calves with adult cows for a period of time after calving is increasing among consumers and dairy farmers. At present, however, it is largely unexplored how dairy farmers implement cow-calf housing on their farms. This survey therefore investigated how dairy farms with cow-calf contact managed their animals during the time that cows and calves are in contact. In addition, it evaluated which aspects of management were perceived as most challenging, and how farmers dealt with these challenges. Interviews were conducted on 104 dairy farms from six European countries. The farms kept cows and calves together for at least 7 days, and sold milk to dairies. The respondent could be either the owner or the farm manager. Cow-calf farming was practised on farms with a wide range of management systems, from small farms that kept their animals outdoors throughout the year and milked cows by hand or in mobile clamp milking machines to robotic farms. Calves could be kept with the dam or foster cow for part or all of the milking period. Daily contact time varied between farms, from 15 min twice a day at milking to contact throughout the day. Many farmers had observed stress-related behaviours when cows and calves were finally separated, yet the most common separation method was to move the calves away from the cows without first reducing contact time. Constraints with existing buildings were most often cited by farmers as a difficulty in starting cow-calf farming.

Structured questionnaire-based interviews regarding the management and feeding of cows and calves were conducted on 104 European dairy farms where calves were kept with adult lactating cows for at least 7 days after calving. The study collected mainly quantitative data, which allowed the inclusion of a larger number of farms. As it is not possible to identify farms with cow-calf contact in central databases, the included farms represent a non-probability sample. However, this study is currently the largest survey conducted regarding the use of cow-calf contact on commercial dairy farms. The study was designed to collect baseline data in this new area of research, and the results are therefore presented descriptively. We used Netigate to gather the interview responses and analysed the data using the softwares R, Stata and Microsoft Excel. Paths need to be customized in order for it to function (is there reference to "MyRepository" on line 6).

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Data contains personal data

Yes

Type of personal data

Pseudonymised information (names) of respondents

Code key exists

Yes

Language

Method and outcome

Unit of analysis

Population

European dairy farmers with cow-calf contact

Time Method

Sampling procedure

Non-probability
Non-probability sampling
It is difficult to identify dairy farms with cow-calf farming from central registers. Therefore, to recruit farms, outreach activities were carried out through existing cooperation networks, personal contacts and advertising.

Time period(s) investigated

2018-12-10 – 2019-06-25

Data format / data structure

Data collection
Geographic coverage

Geographic spread

Geographic location: Sweden, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria

Geographic description: Data from seven European countries: France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Austria.

Administrative information

Responsible department/unit

Department of Clinical Sciences

Contributor(s)

Audrey Michaud - University of Clermont Auvergne, INRAe orcid

Anna Bieber - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture orcid

Anet Spengler Neff - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture orcid

Bruno Martin - University of Clermont Auvergne, INRAE orcid

Roswitha Weissensteiner - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences

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Audrey Michaud - University of Clermont Auvergne, INRAe orcid

Anna Bieber - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture orcid

Anet Spengler Neff - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture orcid

Bruno Martin - University of Clermont Auvergne, INRAE orcid

Roswitha Weissensteiner - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences

Birgit Fuerst-Waltl - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences orcid

Claudia Schneider - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture

Alessandro Priolo - University of Catania orcid

Ute Knierim - University of Kassel orcid

Silvia Ivemeyer - University of Kassel orcid

Margherita Caccamo - Consorzio Ricerca Filiera Lattiero Casearia orcid

Dominique Pomies - University of Clermont Auvergne, INRAE orcid

Christel Simantke - University of Kassel orcid

Christoph Winckler - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences orcid

Hanna Eriksson - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Husdjurens utfodring och vård orcid

Nils Fall - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Kliniska vetenskaper orcid

Tomasz Sakowski - Institute of Genetics and Animal Biotechnology orcid

Magdalena Stachelek - Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Genetics and Animal Biotechnology orcid

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Funding

  • Funding agency: transnational funding bodies, being partners of the H2020 ERA-net project, CORE Organic Cofund, and the cofund from the European Commission.
  • Funding agency's reference number: CORE Organic cofund number 727495
  • Project name on the application: ProYoungStock - Promoting young stock and cow health and welfare by natural feeding systems
Topic and keywords

Research area

Plants and animals (CESSDA Topic Classification)

Agricultural and veterinary sciences (Standard för svensk indelning av forskningsämnen 2011)

Farming (INSPIRE topic categories)

Publications

Eriksson, H., Fall, N., Ivemeyer, S., Knierim, U., Simantke, C., Fuerst-Waltl, B., Winckler, C., Weissensteiner, R., Pomiès, D., Martin, B., Michaud, A., Priolo, A., Caccamo, M., Sakowski, T., Stachelek, M., Spengler Neff, A., Bieber, A., Schneider, C., Alvåsen, K. (2022). Strategies for keeping dairy cows and calves together – a cross-sectional survey study. Animal. 16(9), 100624.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2022.100624

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