Case study: How do we stop calves sucking each others teats?

Case study: How do we stop calves sucking each others teats?

On of our trainers from Canada has an interesting case. What would you do to solve this problem?

Basic farm data:
"Holstein dairy farmer with 95 milking cows. Calves are fed 8 liters of milk (or sometimes milk replacer) per day and are weaned at 2 months. Before weaning they also have calf starter and water at all time. They easily consume almost 3 kg grain when weaned. After weaning groups of 3-4 are in large pens (plenty of space) with deep straw bedding over mattress. Temperature, humidity, ventilation and light are all good. The problem is calves suckling each others teats on almost 20% of the animals and the suckling persist to later age (even 6-7 months) so that a significant proportion of heifer raised end up with 3 functional teat when milking. Farmer has tried everything including stopping feeding milk from nipple pail or keep going and provide a nipple on the wall after weaning. Problem is that since they continue at 6-7 months you can give water through nipple at that age. She is currently putting metal rings on the nose to prevent suckling but it retards growth. Looked at genetic line but did not find any correlations".

What can we do to stop this behavior? Please let us know what you think!
In a few days we'll share our own thoughts as well.

Comments (26)

Sue

Metal spiked rings do work but try smearing peppermint oil on to the teats that are being sucked, you have to repeat over a few days but it stops calves sucking

Anouk Brinkhoff

Hi Sue, thanks for your suggestion!

Here is some more information from Jan Hulsen:

My first guess is that when you observe feeding, feed and the calves as it really happens, that you will find the probable bottle neck. A camera might be of use here.

Calves suckle for three reasons:
1. hunger
2. satisfying suckling need
3. satisfying a need for roughage (rumination/rumen fiber matt formation)

1+2 are triggered by meals. So this behavior is expressed typically when calves are still hungry after a meal of milk and have not satisfied their suckling need.

Also, one of our old blogs might be interesting if you want to know more: http://www.cowsignals.com/blog/why_calf_feeding_with_a_teat_is_better

using a espial mask on the mouse

for a short e

hamish quinlivan

Hi from new zealand, we have a calf rearing system over hear based on lower milk intakes and hungrier calves are encouraged to eat meal
Energy from milk feeding becomes less than meal feeding over a coarse of weeks
2 L in one feed, twice a day, meal is available ad lib, calves tend to go for meal after finishing milk
3L once a day from day 10 or so
meal intakes don't really increase till 3 weeks of age.
Take care energy intakes are sufficient while meal intakes are low. Days 1 to 14, concentrating milk with powder works well to avoid weight loss during this time.
The relevance to your problem may be the lack of suckling required to achieve energy intakes from a relatively young age .....they are eating meal instead. Good luck .

M.A,Morsy

using a mask on the face after cleaning it by a detergent

hamish quinlivan

Also straw or relatively low energy fibre available ad lib
and water available from day 1
course not coarse :)

Ljiljana

Thank You nice people for the expiriences You give to all of us:) :)

Jürn Diers

Hi, I think the problem is a lack of succing during the milk period. We use a teat made of strong rubber. The calves are succing more than 10 min. per feeding. after this they are quiet. If you beginn with this teats early after day 3 after birth you will minimize the succing problem almost to zero percent. You need a strict system with one new teat for every new calve. After weaning the teats have to be changed. You can use this teats with buckets of 5 to 12 teats per bucket. I work with this system since 2007 with great succes. You can find more information at the website of Milk Bar.

Nancy

Can you post a video of calves drinking? Are they satisfied when they do come up to drink? And can they drink when they come up to the machine. If you have high levels of refusals and if the calf lingers sucking at the machine when the machine stops giving milk then your parameters and you GM/l need to be tweaked. Cheers! If they are sucking prepuces then that is another question!

Annelise Hever

1. Feed them by nipples and not from buckets. Let them suckle long enough to satisfy their natural suckling behaviour.
2. Suckling one each others teats can also be a sign of stress. Hunger, cold, social stress, weaning etc. Find and remove he stress factors!
3. Too low engery intake is another possible reason, especially during cold and/or windy weather you need to adjust feed intake. Give one more meal per day.
4. Give them dry roughage for free, Ruminating prevents them from beeing bored and suckling others theats.
5. If you have lockers, lock them up for 15 minutes after feeding milk and give the concentrate to eat.
Good luck

Sanna Soleskog

The behaviour pattern of suckling is not very well satisfied when the milk is given in a bucket etc and especially when to restricted (8 liter is ok in my opinion). Just as the calf is drinking the milk is finished - to be compared of suckling behaviour when a calf stays with its mother. If it is not possible to lock them in for 15 minutes after feeding it might help to always give them fresh starter or grain when you feed milk - they will then will quick learn the behaviuour of hurrying to the starter/grain when milk is finished.

Jason DeWitt

We keep our calves in individual pens until after weening, they don't learn how to suck on each other this way. Have had problems in the past with 3 quarter heifers . Keeping them separate fixed the problem in our situation

Thanks

Neil Howie

All the above are good points to check out. Nipple feeding must be better than buckets when feeding large milk volumes. We tried aerosol sprays designed to stop feather pecking in chickens, mixed results.Presumably where it failed the behavioural drivers were very strong . Note, are all the blind quarters due to trauma from the sucking? I associate blind teats with Mycoplasma infection in pre puberty heifers.

ole kristian

Noserings, aerosol spray, peppermint etc. are not a good thing to deal with theese problems, you only hide the problem in that way. Maybe they have lack of some minerals, check the milk and if the cows cover theyre need of minerals, also the mineralstatus of the drycow. Do they have feed all the time? Remember to change the milk nipples before they are well used.

Hubert Karreman

Dr. Hulsen's third point:. "satisfying a need for roughage (rumination/rumen fiber matt formation)" needs to be satisfied as well. I agree with others that they need good second cut grass hay at all times ad lib from day 1. The milk feeding machine/robots are the next best thing to a real cow to satisfy their need to suck 8-12 times a day, just like a baby beef calf would do on its mom (go watch - that is what they do). Unless those two points are met, calves sucking on each other will always be a potential. Also, wean them at 3 months instead of two: look at a lactation curve - the cow peaks between 60-90 days and that is biologically for the calf. After that they don't desire the milk as much and won't search for it as much (like from other calves teats)..

John Knowles

Had this problem in UK many years ago. Fixed it by covering the calves teats with Stockholm tar. Also works very well for pizzle suckers and keeps flies away from heifers udders in summer.

Joep Driessen

Thanks for all your thoughts! Great to hear what you think!

Cruz Ortiz

Hi! What we do here is. we feed them milk 6 - 8 lts per day all the way to 60 days, then we reduce the milk intake by half (once a day) for 15 more days so they start to increase their grains consumption. after 75 they get move to another area were they can eat grains plus hay. that seams to do the trick for us.

Niels

It can Be multifactorial . Climate, housing, minerals, feeding strategy not only at the moment of weaning but the complete feeding strategy from 2-10 weeks, the management around weaning And health status

Maggie

Interesting comments from all. We would suggest a programme which combines a mechanism to reduce drinking speed (i.e. correct teat style & hardness) - coupled with a feed programme giving sufficient milk at each feed to ensure calves suckle for long enough (>15 mins) to satisfy the 'hard wired' suckling behaviour. This reduces the liklihood that thy will seek out another teat after feeding.

Diego Carbonell

Hi Joep
You didn't mention the feeding method they use to supply milk to this calfs, cross suckling is produced by the lack of saliva produced by the animals at feeding time, calfs need this saliva to calm the acidity in the stomachs and to process the milk they already drank, is part of the coagulating process the milk have to go through in the abomasum, you can see it in calfs that are put in individual pens, they suck on the wood, on metal, anything to produce saliva, on a group pen the suckling will be done calf to calf, once this behavior is implanted on the calf mind it is very difficult to fix, try fixing it at the rearing by feeding correctly not letter. http://www.milkbar.co.nz/RearHealthyCalves/UnderstandingDigestion.aspx

Dusan Korinek

I can recommend a special TMR for calves. From the first days it is possible to use a mixture of dried green alfalfa. For older calves about 3 weeks of age, it is possible to produce a TMR of chopped straw, corn silage and cereals and soybean meal.
Calves have no problem with the transition to plant diet and minimizes mutual "drinking".

Anouk Brinkhoff

See we are still getting a lot of tips here. Great!

Joep driessen

Enough milk before weaning , 6-8 liters with 165 gram powder, for first 30-40 days, or even unlimited till 30'days will prevent sucking eachother!
This could be an easy way to not learn them this bad behaviour!!

And prevent weaning stress with gradual weaning .... Every step with one week in between. See our video learning program youngstocksignals!! Excellent 5 hour training for advisors and farmers!!

Keep up the good work!

Antonio Kvetek

hello,

all the thing wroted on this post is very good.
My opinion is:
-let move weaning to a later point (10 weeks),
-do it greadually (in one week-11 weeks total),
-and give them finished TMR for calves (not TMR of cows, 18 % of protein, 11 MJME energy and 9,5-10% efective fiber in dry matter should be good). Straw prepare with milling machine so they have to eat straw as well as concentrate in it.
I belive that unprepared straw is not good for ruminants, especially not good when they have to form the rumen micropopulation. Milled straw is very good solutions.
If they are eating unprepared straw (and rumen is not formed yet so good) they have to spend lot of energy to degrade it in rumen, and they will do anything to get that energy needed. Especially if they are eating 3 kilos of concentrate. That is too much at that time. The ph in rumen is not so high on 3kilos of concentrate because of that they can't get enough production od cellulutic bacteria that is degrading straw or hay. Milled straw or hay, the best thing for them in good quantities and 1,5-2 kilos of concentrate at 2 months of age. After weaning and making sure they eat 0,5-1,5 kilos of hay or straw per day and 1 to 2 kilos of concentrate, need for suckling should be reduced because rumen is producing heat from fiber degradation.
As long they eat much concentrate (lower ph in rumen), and little fiber (small amount of celulitic bacteria), they will always look for fast energy source (milk) and then we got a habit. Good habits are good, but bad habits are not desirable.
My way of seeing things.

Good luck. Hope it helps. Regards

Joep Driessen

Antonio Kvetek wrote:
hello,

all the thing wroted on this post is very good.
My opinion is:
-let move weaning to a later point (10 weeks),
-do it greadually (in one week-11 weeks total),
-and give them finished TMR for calves (not TMR of cows, 18 % of protein, 11 MJME energy and 9,5-10% efective fiber in dry matter should be good). Straw prepare with milling machine so they have to eat straw as well as concentrate in it.
I belive that unprepared straw is not good for ruminants, especially not good when they have to form the rumen micropopulation. Milled straw is very good solutions.
If they are eating unprepared straw (and rumen is not formed yet so good) they have to spend lot of energy to degrade it in rumen, and they will do anything to get that energy needed. Especially if they are eating 3 kilos of concentrate. That is too much at that time. The ph in rumen is not so high on 3kilos of concentrate because of that they can't get enough production od cellulutic bacteria that is degrading straw or hay. Milled straw or hay, the best thing for them in good quantities and 1,5-2 kilos of concentrate at 2 months of age. After weaning and making sure they eat 0,5-1,5 kilos of hay or straw per day and 1 to 2 kilos of concentrate, need for suckling should be reduced because rumen is producing heat from fiber degradation.
As long they eat much concentrate (lower ph in rumen), and little fiber (small amount of celulitic bacteria), they will always look for fast energy source (milk) and then we got a habit. Good habits are good, but bad habits are not desirable.
My way of seeing things.

Good luck. Hope it helps. Regards

Hi Antonio,

Thanks a lot for your elaborate response. Good to know what your experiences are!

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