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N Z Vet J. 2005 Aug;53(4):246-8.

Sucking behaviour of hand-reared newborn dairy calves.

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Animal Welfare and Bioethics Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.



To determine the feeding ability of calves during the first 4 days after birth.


The sucking behaviour of 171 dairy calves, fed from individual bottles during the first 4 days after birth, was evaluated by quantifying the volume of colostrum consumed, the duration of feeding, and speed of drinking. Calves had been separated from their mothers and brought into a rearing shed in the morning, when < 24 h of age, and were offered 2 L colostrum from a bottle in the afternoon of the same day, and twice daily thereafter.


Newborn calves became efficient suckers from bottles within 24 h of removal from their dams (collection). On the day after birth, 95% of calves drank the 2 L of colostrum offered during the afternoon feed, and by Day 4 virtually all calves (99%) drank this amount. Calves that had inadequate colostrum from their dam were more likely to drink all 2 L offered after collection, but a small number of calves that had not had colostrum from their dams and drank < 500 ml at the afternoon feed following collection were likely not to drink 2 L on the following days. However, calves that did not drink all 2 L on Day 1 were not disadvantaged in comparison to those that did, in that they were equally likely to drink 2 L on Day 4.


The majority of calves became efficient drinkers within 48 hours of birth, but a small number of slow feeders may need individual feeding at least up to 4 days after birth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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