Expert Insights

Exploring the Benefits of Pairing Calves

There are a few things we all know are better together: macaroni and cheese, milk and cookies, ice cream and sprinkles. But there’s another dairy-related pair that needs to be top of mind when it comes to optimizing your herd’s future generation: Pairing calves.

During our a recent VES-Artex Webinar, the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Whitney Knauer took participants deep into the nuances of pair housing for dairy calves. While this is a relatively new practice, it is incredibly practical and easy to implement thanks to solutions from manufactures like VES-Artex. Knauer, who has focused her research on the benefits of pairing calves, will share practical tips and tricks that can help dairies implement the practice.

Specifically, research has found that pairing calves during the pre-weaning period have the same socialization benefits as those housed in a larger group without increases in morbidity and mortality – compared to individual housing – that can often be seen in large social groups. They have improved social skills, better average daily gain and learn better, Knauer said.

Other considerations that will be explored are the specific management practices of calf housing environments.

“After adequate intake of high-quality colostrum, the most important components of keeping a calf healthy are a dry and well-bedded environment that is adequately ventilated, with appropriate cold and heat stress mitigation,” Knauer said. “When considering what a calf wants – especially considering her natural behavior as a herd animal – the ability to socialize with other calves also falls on that list.”

In addition to the nutrition, infrastructure, and environmental factors that impact a calf’s overall health status, Knauer is also closely following the role technology and monitoring can have on calves. The potential of systems like DairyBOS® can and will play more of a role in calf barns moving forward.

“Advances in monitoring technology and how to use monitored parameters for disease detection and cow management is an exciting trend,” Knauer said. “Because of cost, there is not a lot of uptake in pre-weaned calves, but with cost reduction over the next 5-10 years, there might be an opportunity for these type of monitoring systems in pre-weaned dairy calves.”

Watch the webinar recording here.

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