Abstract #693

# 693
Housing and management practices on farms using automated calf feeders in the Midwestern United States.
Matthew Jorgensen*1, Amber Adams Progar1, Kevin Janni1, Hugh Chester-Jones2, Jim Salfer3, Marcia Endres1, 1University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, 2University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca, MN, 3University of Minnesota Extension, Saint Cloud, MN.

Automated calf feeding systems are growing in popularity across the United States, yet information regarding feeder use and management is limited. This ongoing study is investigating housing and management practices on dairy farms with automated feeders. Thirty-eight Midwestern dairy farms were visited approximately every 60 d for 18 mo. Management practices data were collected using a questionnaire and calves (n = 10,185) and facilities were observed by research personnel. Of 38 calf feeding facilities, 39% were specifically constructed to house automated feeders and 61% were retrofitted; 53% were naturally ventilated barns, 39% were mechanically ventilated, and 8% were within a tunnel ventilated barn. A great majority of facilities (84%) supplemented ventilation systems with positive pressure tubes. Mean (±SD) pen size available to calves was 72.1 (±33.0) m2. Farms housed 17.6 (±7.8; range 2–63) calves per pen, allowing for 4.6 (±2.9; range 1.2–32.3) m2 of space/calf and 16.7 (±6.6; range 2–38) calves per nipple station. Calves were introduced into group pens at 5.2 (±4.0; range 0–14) days of age. A total of 68% of farms fed calves reconstituted milk replacer, 24% whole milk plus replacer or protein balancer, and 8% unsupplemented whole milk. A medicated milk product was used by 76% of farms. Milk (or replacer) allowance per day at feeder introduction was 5.4 (±2.1; range 3–15) L rising to 8.3 (±2.0; range 5–15) L at its peak. Time from feeder introduction to peak milk allowance was 18.0 (±11.4; range 0–44) days. Weaning for calves on automated feeders started at 44.5 (±6.9; range 32–60) days of age and calves were fully weaned by 56.8 (±9.0; range 40–86) days. Management of automated feeding systems was highly varied among farms in this study and an investigation of the relationship between management factors and calf morbidity and mortality will provide an understanding of factors associated with improved calf performance and welfare. This project is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant no. 2012–67021–19280 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Key Words: automated feeder, calf management, calf housing