ProYoungStock

  • Young stock and cows benefit from natural feeding systems    

Introduction

The objectives of ProYoungStock are to collect, to develop and to assess natural feeding strategies increasing dairy livestock welfare including health in different agro-ecological and regulatory European contexts. This will be achieved by improving the rearing of calves pre-weaning and designing forage based feeding strategies for heifers and adult cows, both fostering the animal’s immune status and reducing the use of antibiotics and anthelmintics.    

Background

Early separation of dairy cows and calves after birth is an animal welfare issue. It is practiced on most dairy farms, also organic ones. The (long-term) effects of natural rearing and feeding strategies on health, welfare and economic performance need further investigation in order to solve current problems and to find best practises.

Main project activities

  • Identifying innovative young stock rearing systems that allow calf-cow contact implemented by pioneer farmers across Europe
  • Evaluating the impact of these systems on cow and calf welfare and economic performance
  • Testing the hypothesis that contents of immunoglobulins in colostrum and in milk might be stimulated either due to cow-calf contact or due to feed supplements
  • Studying the effect of increased milk amounts fed to organic dairy calves in terms of welfare, natural behaviour and performance
  • Assessing long-term effects of different environmental and feeding conditions during rearing on health, longevity and fertility later in life
  • Evaluating the potential of plant bioactive compounds in pasture-based production systems to improve protein use efficiency, animal health, and immune response (natural anthelmintic) as well as product quality
  • Sharing project results with farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders through workshops and leaflets, guidelines, practice abstracts, articles, and websites and scientific publications     

Benefits and results

Expected long-term societal benefits

The current project will close the research gaps between calves and dairy cows by also focussing on feeding strategies for young stock. Different young stock rearing practices will be evaluated concerning their health and longevity as dairy cows. Optimised grazing and feeding systems are important for many organic farms in extensive grassland areas in Europe. Natural, locally available herbal bioactive feed compounds will be tested and better known as a result of this project. Recommendations from this project will help to reduce the use of antibiotics and anthelmintics as well as concentrates while maintaining adequate production levels. Dam rearing systems will be better established, which is a major consumer wish.

Coordinator of ProYoungStock


Implementation and plans to reach target audience

Farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders will benefit from the results of this project through diverse dissemination activities such as workshops and leaflets, guidelines, practice abstracts, articles, websites and scientific publications.