The effect of the climatic housing environment on the growth of dairy-bred calves in the first month of life on a Scottish farm

DJ Bell*, J Robertson, AI Macrae, A Jennings, CS Mason, MJ Haskell

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Calf housing is naturally thermodynamic, with interactions between various elements such as wind speed, air temperature, and humidity. This study investigated the effect of the proportion of time for which calves were exposed to effective environmental temperatures below their lower critical temperature (LCT) on their daily liveweight gain (DLWG) within their first month of life. This study used the naturally occurring climatic environment, whereas other such studies have been conducted under climatically controlled conditions. Air temperature (°C), relative humidity (%), and wind speed (m/s) were recorded within the calf housing from birth until approximately 28 days of age, with calves being health-scored and weighed at regular intervals. Calves were housed from birth until 6–14 days old in individual hutches, and then moved into group housing igloo pens. Whilst individually housed, calves that spent less than 32% of their time below their LCT had a DLWG of 0.06 ± 0.34 kg/d (mean ± SE) compared to calves that spent more than 97% of their time below their LCT, which had a DLWG of −0.19 ± 0.045 kg/d. When group housed, calves that spent less than 1% of their time below their LCT had a DLWG of 0.59 ± 0.18 kg/d, whereas calves that spent more than 28% of their time below their LCT had a DLWG of 0.53 ± 0.23 kg/d. The proportion of time for which calves were exposed to effective environmental temperatures below their LCT had a significant effect on DLWG when calves were individually housed. Therefore, exposure to effective environmental temperatures below the LCT can be detrimental to the growth of the calf in the early stages of its life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2516
JournalAnimals
Volume11
Issue number9
Early online date27 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 27 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Daily liveweight gain
  • Housing
  • Housing environment
  • Lower critical temperature
  • Pre-weaned calf

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