Hoard's Dairyman article: Individual hutches and bottle feeding reduce infections

calf and heifer

Individual hutches and bottle feeding reduce infections

University of Tennessee researchers placed 90 newborn Jerseys into four different groups: bottle fed calves in hutches, bottle-fed calves in calf barns, nursing calves with dam for three days and then placed in hutches or nursing calves with dam for three days and then placed in calf barn. The calf barn contained individual wooden pens.

Bottle-fed calves were given about a quart of milk twice daily. Calves that were placed with nurse cows were fed at will for three days, then placed in three groups. After the third day, both groups were fed about a litre of milk replacer per feeding.

Fecal samples were taken twice a week from calves during the four-week study. The samples were evaluated to determine levels of Crytosporidium, Giardia, Eimeria, rotavirus and coronavirus which are primary causes of calf scours.

When Cryptosproridium samples were pooled across the four-week study, calves housed in individual wooden pens in the barn had a 16.5 percent greater level of Cryptosporidium oocytes in their feces when compared to bottle-fed calves in individual hutches. In addition, 1-week-old calves that nursed had a higher prevalence of Cryptosporidium infection than calves removed from the dam and fed colostrum by a bottle. This was probably due to earlier calf exposure to Cryptosporidium from the dam and surrounding environment.

During the 35-day study, 30 calves had Eimeriaoocytes in their feces (Emeria causes scours more commonly known as coccidia.) Emeria contamination was greater in calves housed in the barn, particularly during the last week of the study, apparently due to contamination of the barn environment by calves born earlier. Only 6.6 percent of bottle-fed calves housed in hutches had Emeria oocytes in their feces during the study.

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