In animal husbandry, dairy cattle is one of domestic animal species that is withheld from maternal care by separating cow and calf shortly after birth. Receiving no or limited maternal care may not only affect the health and welfare of the young animal, but may also influence social and biological functioning later in life as dairy cow. Knowledge on the effects of maternal care on adaptive capacity and resilience in dairy cattle is currently lacking. Moreover, especially long-term effects of cow-calf contact and suckling on calves’ social and biological development are unknown. This project aims to investigate rearing methods with different levels and components of maternal care. Objectives are to determine i) which cow-factors (e.g. colostrum, suckling, tactile stimulation, physical contact) are most relevant for calf health and welfare; and ii) if these potential factors can be mimicked or implemented in practice. It is hypothesised that optimal rearing conditions improve resilience, adaptive capacity and disease resistance later in life during critical phases including weaning, transition period and transport between facilities. Therefore, several levels and durations of maternal contact as well as different separation and weaning methods are examined with regard to their impact on behavioural, physiological, immunological, and microbiological response parameters throughout the rearing period and (early) adulthood in both male and female calves. Additionally, the relevance of suckling for both calf and cow is assessed using motivational response parameters. Ultimately, new scientific insights will be translated into practical methods to improve calf rearing practices on dairy farms.
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Taal van het document: Engels
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Keywords in English: dairy cows, calves, suckling, bonding, motivation, cow-calf contact