This project ProYoungStock aims to identify approaches to improve young stock rearing systems concerning animal-friendly husbandry, feeding and disease prevention at different levels. Surveys on dairy calf rearing systems with cow-calf contact practised in several European countries will provide information on distribution, diversity and success of such systems. Economic modelling will show their effects on gross margins. On-farm trials will evaluate their impact on animal welfare including health, production, economic efficiency and work load parameters compared to common systems. Veal fattening with foster cows will be compared to common automatic feeders on farm. Effects of feeding increased milk levels on welfare, behaviour, and performance of replacement calves will be analysed in comparison to common feeding. It will be investigated whether the content of immunoglobulins in colostrum and milk can be stimulated via cow-calf contact or via feed supplements. Long-term effects of young stock rearing methods on health and performance later in life will be studied by comparing different feeding (silage vs. non-silage) and grazing strategies (extensive vs. intensive). The impact of plant bioactive compounds on protein use efficiency, animals’ immune response, and product quality will be assessed. The project will contribute to the implementation of animal-friendly and efficient dairy calf rearing and fattening systems in which use of antibiotics and anthelmintics is minimised, and therewith help to solve welfare problems in current calf rearing.
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