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The effects of early separation on the dairy cow and calf

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Most dairy producers believe that early separation of the cow and calf is necessary for reproductive efficiency, to minimise health problems and to improve the ease of milking. In addition, many consider that it is less distressing for both animals if separation occurs earlier rather than later. In this paper we review the welfare and production effects of early separation on the cow and calf. Research has shown that the cow's immediate behavioural response to separation from the calf increases with increased contact with the calf, but other work has shown that cow health and productivity are positively affected by the presence of the calf. Calf response to separation also increases when the calf spends more time with the cow, but there are long-term benefits of prolonged contact in terms of sociality, fearfulness and future maternal behaviour. Health, weight gain and future productivity are also improved when the calf is allowed to spend more time with the cow.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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