PROYOUNGSTOCK – research for improved organic young stock rearing

The project PROYOUNGSTOCK will explore ways to promote young stock and cow health and welfare by natural feeding systems.


There is a great potential to ameliorate young stock rearing systems concerning animal welfare-friendly husbandry, feeding and disease prevention. The CORE Organic Cofund project PROYOUNGSTOCK aims to identify approaches on different levels. 

Surveys, economic modelling and on-farm trials

There will be surveys on dairy calf rearing systems with cow-calf contact practised in several European countries to provide information on distribution, diversity and success of such systems, and on barriers or support due to national standards. Economic modelling will show their impacts on gross-margins. On-farm trials with 2-3 selected systems will evaluate their impact on animal welfare including health, production, economic and work load parameters compared to common systems. Veal fattening with foster cows will be compared to common automatic feeders on three commercial farms. On five organic farms, 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. 

To study long-term effects of young stock rearing methods on health and performance later in life, different feeding (silage vs. non-silage) and grazing strategies (extensive vs. intensive) will be studied. The impact of plant bioactive compounds on protein use efficiency, animals’ immune response, and product quality will be assessed. 

Activities to solve welfare problems in calf rearing

A result of this project will be recommendations on the implementation of animal friendly and efficient dairy calf rearing and fattening systems in which use of antibiotics and anthelmintics is minimised. Best practice sharing will be promoted via workshops, leaflets and websites for farmers and advisors. This will help to solve welfare problems in current calf rearing. 

Coordinator: Anet Spengler (e-mail:

Partner countries: CH, DE, PL, SI, SE, AT, FR, & IT

CORE Organic Cofund is an ERA-NET funded by the European Commission´s
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Contract No. 727495.