CALF DRINKING POSTURE
Calves should drink with their heads raised and necks stretched.
This enhances the esophageal slit reflex. An unnatural drinking position for the calf is drinking from a bucket (with or without a floating teat).
This method therefore has a negative influence on the growth and digestion of the animal.
Milk passes the digestive system much faster when drinking from a bucket than when sucking from a teat.
Calves often empty a bucket in less than 40 seconds. Sucking the same amount of milk through a suitable teat takes 4 to 6 minutes!
Drinking quickly means more milk per unit of time in the abomasum.
This has a negative effect on the formation of curd in the abomasum and causes an excess of sugar (lactose) in the intestine.
Both lead to nutritional diarrhea.
The stomach system is hardly developed in young calves. In the newborn calf, the abomasum (in which the digestion of the milk takes place) can contain between 1.5 and 2 liters. The rumen then only has a volume of approximately 0.75 liters.
At the age of 8 weeks, both the rumen and the abomasum can already contain 6 liters.
Between the 3rd and 8th week of life, the growth of the calf's rumen is relatively much greater than the actual growth of the calf itself. By the end of the “milk phase”, the rumen has enlarged to approximately 14 liters, while the abomasum can then hold approximately 7 liters.
Did you know that in adult cattle the ratio of rumen to abomasum is 90:10?
In newborn calves, (despite the size of the abomasum), it is no problem at all to provide up to 4 liters of colostrum within a short period of time. The surplus then flows from the abomasum into the rumen. This is exceptional in newborn calves and will not cause any problems. Immediately after the birth of the calf, no bacterial life is present in the rumen.
MUTUAL SUCKING CALVES (“CROSS-SUCKING”)
The rate of milk intake clearly affects cross-sucking. If the milk flow slows down, the calves have to suck longer for their portion of milk.
As a result, the calves spend more time on the intake of milk (in the drinking machine or on the teat). The suction activity is then more stimulated and that increases the feeling of satiety.
The first solution to reduce cross-sucking is to make the calves suck longer to absorb their milk.
The time of non-feeding sucking behavior is at least inversely proportional to the time that calves need to take in their portion of milk through natural behavior. A decrease in the duration of cross-sucking is seen when comparing calves fed with teat buckets compared to calves fed milk in regular buckets.
CALF FEEDERS: FREE ACCESS OR WITH A GATE?
Calf feeders can be operated with free access to the teat or with a gate. The gate locks the calf during milk intake and ensures that it is not disturbed. This will make the visit to the calf feeder longer for both rewarded and unrewarded visits. The calves will therefore spend more time suckling on an empty teat.
Cross-sucking for fifteen minutes after drinking is therefore less common in calves with a calf feeder fitted with a gate.
The sex, breed, cross or age of the calves does not significantly influence cross-sucking.
However, the amount of milk provided, and the way it is presented, is!
Trials in which calves are first placed at a calf feeder without any enclosure option, and then at a calf feeder with a gate, showed that cross-sucking decreased after milk intake, due to the placement of a gate.
Another practical solution is to confine the calves for at least ten minutes after the end of milk intake. The calves will then not be able to suck on other calves, which will reduce the suction motivation.
LOW QUANTITIES OF MILK AND / OR SMALL PORTIONS OF MILK INCREASE CROSS-SUCKING IN CALVES
Calves that do not receive enough milk and / or that are given too small portions of milk, show extra sucking behavior after milk intake.
The cause of this suction motivation is an unsatisfied feeling in the calf as a result of the insufficient amount of milk.
Low-energy food stimulates cross-sucking. It is therefore extra important to stimulate energy intake in the form of solid food. Especially in the last weeks before weaning.
Tasty, fresh and unlimited food, easily accessible, will reduce the risk of cross-sucking.
Weaning quickly and abruptly increases the risk of cross-sucking. It is therefore desirable to gradually reduce the milk supply.
It is important to gradually reduce the milk portions over a sufficient number of days. This can be optimally set with a calf feeder.
Give the calves plenty of time to compensate for the loss of milk by eating extra roughage.
Calves that are not used to this need 7 to 10 days to adjust.