Main research question
Calves in the rearing period (2 - 3 months) are vulnerable. This period is crucial for efficient rearing. Recent growth measurements on Flemish dairy farms show that this is not optimal and that there is much room for improvement. Also, the average calving age of heifers in Flanders is still above the target of 24 months.
This project aims to improve the health of the calves by developing a preventive approach in the rearing of young cattle on Flemish dairy farms. Three goals are combined: less illness and mortality, lower drug consumption and better growth. A more efficient rearing of calves will benefit the farm's profitability and animal welfare.
The researchers focus on the following work themes: water quality, calf housing, stress during interventions (e.g. dehorning) and resistance building (colostrum check). Within the project, 10 pioneering companies will be guided to achieve the aforementioned goals by applying the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) approach: define objectives, plan actions, carry them out, evaluate these actions and ultimately incorporate them permanently into management. This step-by-step plan is drawn up in consultation with the various inheritors (veterinarian, feed advisor, ...). The roll out of the results is done by means of two demo fairs and the creation of a practical brochure on accurate calf rearing.
We expect that the KALFIT research project will lead to good practices and concrete improvement actions based on information about technical tools related to calf management. Dairy farmers will have access to independent, clear and reliable technical knowledge. This is in contrast to the sometimes divergent messages spread by farm visitors. The researchers plan the dissemination of their project results through various communication channels and activities.