Over a period of two years, growth rate and health were measured for dairy calves allowed to suckle their mothers up to 6–8 weeks of age. Thirty-one calves were weighted weekly, and the mean daily growth rate was 1.2 ± 0.03 kg from birth up to 13 weeks of age. Illness in calves and young stock was not observed. In the cows, the mean incidences of ketosis, displaced abomasum, puerperal paresis, mastitis, teat injury and retained placenta were 0, 0, 8, 22, 1 and 1%, respectively, during a 6-year period. The mean daily gain of 56 growing bulls was 1.4 kg when slaughtered at 15 months of age, which is higher than the mean daily gain of 0.95 kg in the population. Probiotics, hormones and vaccines were not used, and antibiotics were only used for treating illness. The present study indicates many advantages and few problems when dairy calves are penned together with the cows and allowed natural feeding up to 6–8 weeks of age. This production system was easy to manage, preferred by the farmer, and may satisfy the public concern regarding the practice of immediate separation of cow and calf in commercial milk production.
Source: Grøndahl, A. M., Skancke, E. M., Mejdell, C. M., & Jansen, J. H. (2007). Growth rate, health and welfare in a dairy herd with natural suckling until 6–8 weeks of age: a case report. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 49(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0147-49-16