Young mammals are motivated to suckle.

In nature, low sucking motivation means lower survival chances.


Even if calves are given lots of milk from an open bucket, (or by using a "fast teat"), the sucking reflex persists for a period of time.

The sucking reflex has several important (biological) functions.

For example, sucking calves release digestive hormones necessary for nutrient absorption.

It also ensures a better closure of the esophageal groove and additionally increases the calf's "satiated" feeling.


Milk ideally flows directly into the abomasum.

If milk enters the rumen (after the first colostrum feeding), the milk will ferment in the rumen.

Gas, bloating, reduced feed efficiency and slower growth are some of the consequences. 


The natural desire of calves to suckle is greatest immediately after the completion of each milk feeding.

This desire decreases for +/- 15 minutes after the last milk intake.

Mutual suckling calves focus on the groin area of other calves in 78% of cases, especially on the udder and scrotum tissue.  




1. Always provide milk with a teat:

Calves by nature have to suck and swallow, not just swallow,


2. Give calves a FULL amount of milk through the teat according to their needs,


3. Allow calves to suck on the empty teat bucket or bottle for at least 10 to 15 minutes,


4. Use a "slow" teat: 

Calves must then suck intensively during milk intake. 

Calves that suck intensively while drinking slowly produce more  saliva, (this is needed for digestion of the ingested milk),


5. Group Housing: 

Group housing is not a problem in terms of milk intake. 

Make sure each calf has a teat available, and enough space to drink quietly,


6. Provide tasty, fresh and structured roughage after each milk feeding: 

This not only stimulates saliva production, rumen development and a healthy digestion, it also prevents boredom!


In conclusion:

The motivation to suckle is partly influenced by the intake of milk.

The taste of milk (lactose) stimulates sucking behavior.

A shortage of energy or nutrients will further stimulate sucking behavior.

The need of calves to suck is more reduced by the sucking itself, than by the intake of milk!

Sucking on objects has a significant impact on metabolism, (including an increase in the concentration of insulin and cholecystokinin in the blood).

This increase has a calming effect and is similar to the "pacifier" or thumb sucking in children.

Higher concentrations of insulin and cholecystokinin in the blood stimulate digestion and suppress the feeling of hunger, thus lowering the motivation to suck.