Study: Calves grew faster with gentle attention
Posted Feb. 10, 2016
Dairy calves petted and exposed to soft talk from humans early in life may grow quicker and could later produce more milk, compared with control calves lacking such attention, according to a recent study.
Researchers found increased growth rates among Holstein-Friesian calves raised on a dairy in eastern Germany when farm workers stroked the calves’ necks and talked in soothing tones to them during the first two weeks of life. The study results were published online in September 2015 and in print in November in the scientific article “The influence of gentle interactions on avoidance distance towards humans, weight gain and physiological parameters in group-housed dairy calves.”
The authors claim their study is the first to investigate the influence of gentle interactions on weight gain in group-housed dairy calves.
The study involved 104 calves, 91 of them female, born between June and August 2013. Half the calves were given three minutes of gentle interactions with handlers daily.
In comparison with control calves given routine management, the calves given the added gentle treatments gained more weight, especially among control and treatment groups given access to more milk replacer for a longer period. Between those groups, the treated calves gained a mean of 6.6 percent more weight daily.
The authors cited a 2013 meta-analysis in stating that higher mean daily weight gain as a calf has a strong positive relationship with milk yield as an adult.