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An Investigation Into the Effects of Free-Access Acidified Milk Replacer Feeding Programs on the Productivity and Welfare of the Calf

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Title: An Investigation Into the Effects of Free-Access Acidified Milk Replacer Feeding Programs on the Productivity and Welfare of the Calf
Author: Todd, Cynthia
Department: Department of Population Medicine
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Sargeant, JanMillman, Suzanne
Abstract: Free-access acidified milk feeding is increasingly being adopted to feed dairy and veal calves. Acidification is used to preserve milk and facilitate free-access feeding. There is, however, little controlled research to support the adoption of free-access acidified milk feeding over traditional feeding programs. The objectives of this thesis were to describe the preweaned calf management and feeding practices used on dairy farms in Ontario, Canada, and to investigate the effects of milk replacer acidification and free-access feeding on the productivity and welfare of calves. A total of 140 Ontario dairy producers participated in a cross-sectional study and were surveyed about on-farm calf management and feeding practices. Results from this study documented that there are currently a range of management practices and several different feeding programs being used on farms. Colostrum and milk feeding management are the areas where the most progress has been made in recent years; however, several other aspects of calf management and feeding still warrant improvement. A pilot study was conducted to examine the effects of milk replacer acidification and free-access feeding on the nutrient intake, growth, rumen papillary development and behaviour of calves. A field study was designed to evaluate the effects of a free-access acidified milk replacer feeding program on the pre and postweaning health and growth of dairy and veal calves. A randomized controlled study was completed to investigate how milk replacer acidification, under free-access feeding conditions, affects the pre and postweaning performance and health of veal calves. Results from these studies demonstrated that milk replacer acidification limited calves’ intake of milk replacer by approximately 1 L/d, resulted in more fragmented feeding behaviour, promoted earlier solid feed intake and tended to support improved respiratory health, but had little impact on rumen development or long-term calf performance. Moreover, free-access feeding facilitated larger intakes of milk, resulted in fewer signs of hunger or frustration, and supported greater preweaning growth, but delayed the onset of solid feed consumption and appeared to negatively affect rumen development, compared to restricted feeding. Collectively, these results demonstrate that free-access acidified milk feeding promotes greater early life productivity and enhances calf welfare.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/7241
Date: 2013-06-10


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