In a pilot study between late 2002 and early 2005, the Louis Bolk Institute evaluated the possibilities of
"calf rearing systems in which dairy cows raise their calves. The evaluation included system practicalities,
"weight gain, milk consumption by calves and weaning. The benefits of rearing calves with the mother’s
"involvement are underestimated. In case of calf rearing at dairy farms at least three different methods of
"suckling can be distinguished: single suckling during the colostrum period or with additional milking and
"multiple suckling with a nurse cow. The growth in suckling systems is result of a higher intake and better
"ingestion of colostrum and milk. In single suckling systems milk consumption of calves is up to 10 kg per
"day per calf in the first 14 days and up to 15 kg thereafter. In multiple suckling the consumption varies
"between 5 to 10 kg per day.
However the changes socially, physically and nutritionally at weaning are big. Stress at weaning can be
"partially reduced by the use of nurse cows, by fence line contact between cow and calf or a nose clasp.
"The feeding regime in suckling systems utilises youth growth on a ration of milk but is compatible with
"the feeding strategy at extensive and organic farms. Suckling systems make better use of the growing
"potential of calves in the first months of their lives. A high weaning weight may result in a lower age at
"first calving and a higher weight at calving. Higher bodyweight at calving also has a positive effect on
"milk production in the first lactation. However the biggest advantage of suckling systems is the potential
"to improve welfare and naturalness in the production system.