Youngstock tricks: using toys to prevent cross-suckling

Youngstock tricks: using toys to prevent cross-suckling

There is no perfect solution to prevent cross-suckling among dairy calves. But prevention is needed: cross-suckling can lead to inter-suckling (sucking the udders of heifers and cows), which can have alarming consequences like udder damage, mastitis, and milk loss.

Luckily, with a few feeding measures and toys, it’s possible to substantially reduce the risk.
German CowSignals® master trainer Wolfgang Müller says: "our little ones are very happy to play with toys that are originally meant to prevent boredom in pigs. Calves also like to pull out individual straws from hay nets (commonly used in horse stables), that are hung in an over-head position - otherwise the ear tags are in danger.
And especially the toy propellors are in very high demand!

Have you come across cross-suckling? What was your solution? Please share your experience with our community in the comments, or send us your story at
Want to know more about calf rearing? Our Youngstock Signals video course offers many practical tips and trick to optimize youngstock rearing and give calves the best possible start.

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Comments (5)

David Pyle

We actually use a ball which was designed for dogs hung from the rafters in our group pens. I don't feel it's done anything for suckling. I really like the looks of the propeller I was wondering where I might get my hands on three of these? Our solution for suckling is when we catch them....
We put rings in their nose you understand the challenges with that. Love the picture in the ideas hope to hear from you soon

Joep Driessen

Hi David,
Good question! I've asked Wolfgang Müller where he got the propeller from, and get back to you as soon as I hear from him.
If you want to prevent cross-suckling, also make sure you provide everything the calf needs:

- At least 6 liters of milk per calf per day, or unlimited milk until day 40
- Give roughage with 20% chopped hay from day 1
- Plenty of drinking water accessible from day 1

Good luck!

Don Datema

If you are interested in the hanging enrichment device shown you can contact me if you are in North America. If elsewhere contact EasyFix Ireland. The device on display is successfully used with Pork operations around the world minimizing aggression and tail biting.

Joep Driessen

Thank you Don!
Another option for Europe is BestFarm in Germany:

Steve Thorpe

Andrew Maskery Associates distribute the Easyfix Enrichment Toys in the UK

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