Stones a win­ner as calf bed­ding

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

River stones are a sat­is­fac­tory op­tion for calf bed­ding, ac­cord­ing to a study by DairyNZ and AgRe­search.

The use of river stones has been on the rise in re­cent years, par­tic­u­larly in South­land where more tra­di­tional bed­ding, such as saw­dust, is dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to ob­tain.

DairyNZ an­i­mal hus­bandry and wel­fare team leader Dr Nita Hard­ing said ques­tions about the im­pact of river stones on calf wel­fare prompted the study.

‘‘The six-week study showed there are no detri­men­tal ef­fects to calves raised on river stones and that the MAF An­i­mal Wel­fare (Dairy Cat­tle) Code of Wel­fare’s min­i­mum stan­dards for hous­ing calves are met.’’

The study took place on a com­mer­cial dairy farm in the South Is­land in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber 2011.

The re­search took rounded river stones, around 3cm in scope, laid out in four calf pens at a depth of 20cm.

Twenty calves were mon­i­tored on the river stones and com­pared with an­other 20 calves kept on saw­dust. Kept at a stock­ing den­sity of one each 2 sqm, the calves were eval­u­ated at one and six weeks of age.

‘‘We mon­i­tored the health and clean­li­ness of the calves, as­sessed their be­hav­iour and recorded the tem­per­a­tures of the calves and the en­vi­ron­ment,’’ said Dr Hard­ing.

‘‘Both sets of calves grew at the same rate and both bed­ding ma­te­ri­als were rel­a­tively dry and clean throughout.

‘‘We now have to go back and in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fects of rear­ing calves on river stones at dif­fer­ent stock­ing rates, as this is likely to be more rel­e­vant to com­mer­cial con­di­tions. Stud­ies this year will also in­clude more de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of calf be­hav­iour, as well as mon­i­tor­ing health and growth rates.’’

The stock­ing den­sity used was that rec­om­mended for calves reared on river stones.

Dr Hard­ing said while the study pro­vides good in­for­ma­tion to farm­ers, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that bed­ding is only one part of a suc­cess­ful sys­tem.

‘‘No mat­ter what type of bed­ding is used, it is im­por­tant that a plan is in place that takes into ac­count all as­pects of calf care,’’ she said.

‘‘This in­cludes mak­ing sure staff are ad­e­quately trained, calf feed­ing and health care is ad­e­quate, and that calf rear­ing fa­cil­i­ties are well-pre­pared.’’

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