View graph of relations


Main research question/goal
How can newborn calves be fed during the first months of life to reduce mortality as well as achieve a daily gain of more than 0.6 kg with an acceptable feed cost and a low labour requirement? Belgian Blue double-muscled calves cost considerably more than normal calves. Most of them are not suckled. A first calving at approximately 24 months of age necessitates intensive management. Feeding milk (substitute) is expensive and is time-consuming to prepare and administer. Early weaning is desirable, but only if it is not detrimental to animal performance, health and welfare. The aim of this research is to apply early weaning based on an appropriate calf feeding.

Research approach
Newborn calves are divided into comparable groups. Treatments are designed to apply early weaning. We investigate if 1) calves can be weaned at a different age based on a minimum level of daily concentrate intake; 2) one meal of milk replacer can be fed daily instead of two; and 3) a concentrate can be fed with ingredients that can stimulate intake so that weaning can be accelerated. Daily gain, feed intake, health and mortality are recorded. Demonstration projects are conducted to involve farmers more closely in the project.

Large differences exist between farms with a good or a poor management in terms of return on labour invested. Calf mortality during the first 6 months of life is nearly 4 times higher on farms with a poor management in comparison with well-managed farms. Research on calf mortality can leverage more efficient use of inputs and increase farm profitability and farmer satisfaction. Early calf weaning results in earlier replacement of expensive milk substitute with the less expensive concentrate and roughage.

Funding provider(s)
ILVO - Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en voedingsonderzoek

External partner(s)
Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
Effective start/end date1/01/11 → …

ID: 4158867