Organically raised calves seem to have a higher mortality rate than conventional calves. To this end, an alliance of 6 organic farmers, 2 industrial partners and scientists from Aarhus University is set to find a solution to reduce the mortality figures.
As stated on the website of Aarhus University, the higher mortality rates are partly due to the fact that these calves suffer more from diarrhoea during the first weeks of life. According to SEGES, on an annual basis 9.4% of calves in organic dairy herds die in the first 6 months compared with 8.2% for conventional practices.
The team therefore wants to develop new methods for the housing and management of calves. Over the next 2 years it will be examined whether the infection pressure will become less if:
(a) the organic calves are given a supplement of colostrum in their first few hours of life from cows with a very good immune status,
(b) calves are penned in twos rather than in large groups and
(c) pasteurisation of the cow's milk fed to organic calves can improve milk hygiene so significantly that problems with diarrhoea can be reduced.
After 2 years, the project will lead to new recommendations for housing, milk hygiene and colostrum supplementation in organic herds.
[Source: Aarhus University]
Emmy Koeleman studied Animal Sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She is the editor of Dairy Global and All About Feed.