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Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different housing systems: Indoor versus outdoor hutches

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The main aim of the study was to compare the rearing effect of calves kept outdoor in individual hutches and indoor in group pens. During the experiments, the following measurements were carried out: body weight, daily gains, feed intake, morbidity and mortality. The study was conducted on 90 calves from 5th to 90th day of age; all calves were fed the same feed and according to the same schedule. Results revealed that during the first month, the calves from both groups achieved the same daily gains. However, older calves kept indoor were characterised by better daily gains, feed intake and as a result, body weight. The outdoor system has positive effect on morbidity, especially in case of pneumonia and diarrhoea. During the experiment, only two calves were lost ( mortality rate - 2.2%).
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Archiv Tierzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637
Orgnal study
Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different
housing systems: indoor versus outdoor hutches
Agata Wójcik, Teresa Nałęcz-Tarwacka and Marcin Gołębiewski
Warsaw Universit y of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Abstract
The main aim of the study was to compare the rearing effect of calves kept outdoor in
individual hutches and indoor in group pens. During the experiments, the following mea-
sure ments were carried out: body weight, daily gains, feed intake, morbidity and mortality.
The study was conducted on 90 calves from 5th to 90th day of age; all calves were fed the
same feed and according to the same schedule. Results revealed that during the first month,
the calves from both groups achieved the same daily gains. However, older calves kept
indoor were characterised by better daily gains, feed intake and as a result, body weight.
The outdoor system has positive effect on morbidity, especially in case of pneumonia and
diarrhoea. During the experiment, only two calves were lost (mortality rate – 2.2 %).
Keywords: calves, housing system, individual pens (hutches), calves' rearing parameters,
health
Abbreviations: IHG: indoor housing group, LSM: least square means, OHG: outdoor housing group, SE: standard
error
Open Access
Archiv Ti erzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637 Received: 20 De cember 2012
doi: 10.7482/0003-9438 -56-063 Accepted: 04 Apri l 2013
Online: 26 Apr il 2013
Correspo nding author:
Marcin Gołębiewski: email: marcin_golebiewski@sggw.pl
Depart ment of Animal Sciences, War saw University of Life S ciences, ul. Ciszewsk iego 8, Warsaw, 02-786, Poland
© 2013 by the author s; licensee Leibniz Inst itute for Farm Animal Biolog y (FBN), Dummerstorf, Ge rmany.
This is an Open Access article distributed under t he terms and conditions of the Creat ive Commons Attribution 3.0 License
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Archiv Tierzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637 629
Introduction
Infectious diseases of calves, especially diarrheal and respiratory diseases, are associated
with significant economic losses to the Polish dairy cattle industry. Their occurrence before
90 days affects their performance in later life and is associated with higher age at calving
(Waltner-Toews et al. 1986).The mortality rate for new-born dairy calves (within 24 h after
delivery) is approximately 2.5 to 9 % and strongly depends upon may factor i. e.: breed, parity
as well as environmental conditions (Nogalski & Modras 2009). The occurrence of infectious
diseases of the calf also affects human health safety through either direct contamination
or pathogen transmission. To avoid mentioned hazards appropriate management practices
should be involved in dairy calf rearing.
The successful management of artificially reared calves requires the provision of suitable
housing conditions as well as reduction in environmental pathogens pressure.
According to Waltner-Toews et al. (1986) who conducted the survey in Canada, the farm-
level mortality rate per 6-month season (winter/summer) was 6 %. Peters (1986) who studied
the effects of housing (indoor vs. outdoor), penning (individual vs. group), observed that that
pneumonia was the most common disease symptom (48.3 %) with diarrhoea the second most
common (14.1 %). Neither the type of pens nor the housing system affected the incidence of
p n e u m o n i a ; h o w e v e r, d i a r r h o e a w a s m o s t c o m m o n i n i n d i v i d u a l l y p e n n e d c a l v e s . N e v e r t h e l e s s ,
limi tations of space, inadequate diet and social env ironment have been repor ted to i mpair the
welfare of calves reared in intensive farm systems (Le Neindre 1993). According to Erley et al.
(2004) the peak of death and cull losses of calves occurred during the 7th and 8th week of
life. The key to success for the dairy calves rearing includes such parameters as nutrition with
colostrum at a respective time, hygiene of milk and water, method of housing and type of
materials for bedding (Berge et al. 2009). A bad health state of calves is often ascribed to »bad
ventilation« what means, in practice, complex of environmental factors such as temperature,
air flow, air humidity, pathogenic factors and concentration of gases (Turnbull 1980).
Therefore, the conditions for management of hygiene, quality, functionality and microclimate
of farm premises have a direct influence on feeling, health and, in consequence, productivity
of animals (Szewczuk et al. 2011). To reduce the incidence of respiratory disease in dairy calves
some producers have used outdoor hutches. Virtala et al. (1999) reported that housing calves
in the presence of adult cattle was a risk factor for pneumonia, whereas housing mostly
alone limited the incidents of respiratory tract diseases. One of the first studies (Kurtz 1961),
comparing the rearing of calves in the building and outside i. e. in individual hutches, revealed
that the calves kept outdoor had better body weight gains and lower mortality compared
to the animals kept in the buildings. Andrighetto et al. (1999) observed a favourable effect
of group housing on growth performance. However, Fisher et al. (1985) reported on lower
daily gains and reduced feed efficiency of calves kept in narrow individual pens compared
to animals kept in wider individual pens. Hill et al. (2007) noticed that natural ventilation of
premises for calves at any weather conditions, especially in the winter period, had a positive
effect on consumption of feed and growth rate of young calves. There are scarce studies
concerning the housing system and its influence on parameters of calves rearing in Poland.
The aim of the present study was to compare two housing systems for calves: indoor – in
group pens and outdoor – in individual hutches, outside the cow barn.
Wójcik et al.: Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different housing systems
630
Material and methods
The research material included 90 cow calves of Polish Holstein Friesian breed, Black-and-
White variety. The animals were classified at random into two groups, depending on the
rearing system: in individual hutches (outdoor housing group [OHG], n=45) and in group
pens in calf house (indoor housing group [IHG], n=45) where they stayed since the 5th day
until the end of the 3rd month of life. The body weight of the calves from the OHG and IHG
on the 5th day of life was similar and amounted to 43.40 and 45 kg, respectively. Individual
hutches were made from wooden constructions with dimensions 0.9×1.7 m, with a hardened
concrete runway with dimensions of 1.0×1.3 m. The hutches were installed in a series, at
a distance of 0.5 m each; the calves could see and smell each other but could not touch
themselves. Group pens in the building had dimensions of 3.0×2.80 m and included five
calves each. In both systems, the stock density was 1.6 m2 per animal. Change of bedding
occurred every day, the use of straw was 2 kg/bed/day.
The calves received colostrum until the 4th day of life (twice a day). Since the 5th day, they
were fed (twice a day) milk replacer »Spezial Neu« (Josera GmbH, Kleinheubach, Germany),
which contained 22 % of crude protein, 19.5 % of crude fat and 0.1 % of fibre and since the
9th week of life milk replacer »Fe-Trank« (Josera GmbH, Kleinheubach, Germany) with the
following composition: 23.5 % crude protein, 12.5 % crude fat and 3.5 % of fibre. Colostrum
and milk substitutes were administrated in special buckets, furnished with nippers for the
IHG as well as for the OHG group. Since the 2nd week of life concentrates were administered
ad libitum (Table 1); since the 11th week meadow hay of good quality. The calves kept indoor
had an unlimited access to water; the calves from hutches received water after feeding with
the milk replacer twice a day.
Table 1
Composition of concentrate
Item %
Corn (whole grain) 43.5
Barley+Ground triticale 31.6
Soybean meal 19.0
Lacto Plus 2.5
Hefe-Krauter-Mineral 2.5
CO BIND A-Z 0.5
Salt 0.1
Pasture ground chalk 0.3
Total 10 0.0
During the growth and development calves were weighed on the 5th, 19th, 33rd, 47th, 61st,
75th, 85th, 90 th and 115th day of life. On the ground of the obtained body weights, daily gains
in one month, two and three months of rearing were calculated. Concentrates administered
to the calves and the rejected (not consumed) feed were weighed; from the difference, the
concentrate intake was calculated on every day of life and for every calf. In case of calves in
the group, the mean feed consumption was calculated for each animal. The observation of
Archiv Tierzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637 631
disease incidence was carried out with consideration of diseases of the respiratory system
and alimentary tract and cases of mechanical trauma.
Włodawa community, at the territory of which the studies were conducted, belongs to
the Lubelskie voivodeship which is situated in the eastern part of Poland. Climatic conditions
at the territory of Włodawa are somewhat cooler compared to the climate of Poland. The
mean annual temperature is 7.3 °C what is equal to the average for the country whereas the
amplitude of temperatures is 22.2 °C (average temperature of July is 18 °C and of January
−4.2 °C). The average temperature of the warm half-a-year period (IV-X) is 13.2 °C and this of
the cold one is equal to −1 °C up to −3 °C. The discussed area is characterised, inter alia, by a
longer summer time, lasting for 98 days and a longer winter period (up to 80 days) compared
to the Central Poland.
The air temperature was measured every day during the whole period of the experiment
in the calf house and outside the building – for hutches at 5.00 a.m., 12.00 and 5.00 p.m.
using an alcohol thermometer. From this background the mean daily air temperature
was calculated. In Table 2 the mean, the lowest and the highest values of the recorded air
temperatures for each rearing system have been given.
Table 2
Mean, minimal and maximum values of air temperature for outdoor and indoor systems at 5.00, 12.00 and
17.0 0
5.00 12.00 17.00
Outdoor, °C
Mean 2.17 11.12 9.46
Min −28 −16 −22
Max 19 40 33
Indoor, °C
Mean 9.86 13.10 13.08
Min 112
Max 22 28 28
All cow calves were wormed in the 3rd week of life using Biomectin (Tapazol Chemical Works
Ltd., Beit Shemesh, Israel) 1 %.
The obtained results were statistically analysed, using two factor analysis of variance by
the IBM SPSS Statistics 19 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Body weight, daily gains, daily intake
and orts were analysed with the general linear model. The model included fixed effects of
the housing system, environmental temperature, time (week or month of experiment) and
the housing×time interaction as well as housing×temperature interaction. The calf was
included in the model as the random effect.
The impact of the birth season on the rearing effect of calves was also investigated. A
detailed description of the methods and results is included in the article of Wójcik et al. (2012).
The incidences of the disease distribution were analysed using the chi-square test.
Results
The body weights of calves on particular days of life depending on the management system
are given in Table 3. Highly significant differences were recorded on the 85th day of life – the
Wójcik et al.: Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different housing systems
632
calves from the IHG were 5.36 kg heavier in comparison to the calves from the hutches. In
consequence, the animals from the IHG had a 5 kg higher body weight on the 90th day of
the experiment.
Table 3
Body weight of calves depending on rearing system, kg
Day of life
Housing system
Total me anOutdoor Indoor
n LSM SE n LSM SE n LSM SE
5 44 45.00 0.950 45 43.40 0.940 89 44.20 0.681
19 44 48.94 1.033 45 47.71 1.022 89 48.33 0.741
33 44 56.23 1.071 45 55.15 1.060 89 55.69 0.768
47 44 64.30 1.211 45 63.80 1.198 89 64.05 0.868
61 44 73.04 1.397 45 74.29 1.382 89 73.67 1.002
75 44 82.61 1.631 45 86.25 1.613 89 84.43 1.169
85 44 90.14A1.817 45 95.50A1.797 89 92. 82 1. 303
90 44 95.20 1.927 44 100.49 1.939 89 97.85 1.390
Numerical values in the same line, marked with the same let ter differ significantly (P≤0.01).
Daily gains in the 1st month of life were almost identical (Table 4). Highly significant dif fer-
ences were found in the 2nd and 3rd month of life; the calves kept in the IHG system had
quicker gains compared to the OHG calves (by 13.88 % and 17.08 %, respectively).
Table 4
Average daily gains depending on housing system during the first three months of life, g/d
Month
Housing system
Outdoor Indoor
nLSM SE nLSM SE
1 44 401.21 16.527 45 419.84 16.345
244600.20
C20.864 45 683.53C20.635
344765.40
D26.654 44 896.14D26.810
Numerical values in the same line, marked with the same let ters differ significantly (P≤0.01).
Differences between the IHG and OHG in respec t of daily gains were caused by a higher starter
feed intake (Figure 1). Feed intake differed highly significantly between the groups in the
period up to the 9th week of life; calves from the OHG consumed less feed compared to IHG
calves. After the 9th week of life, the increase in feed intake was recorded in both discussed
groups and the mentioned trend was maintained until the end of the 3rd month of life. It
was additionally observed that after termination of the experiment (14th and 15th week)
the calves from the hutches which were transferred to the building and kept in the groups
(five individuals in each pen), consumed significantly more feed than their contemporaries.
It could result from the greater interest in feed via direct contact between the animals what
was considerably limited earlier.
Archiv Tierzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637 633
Figure 1
Feed intake (kg/d) depending on housing system
In the experiment, the rejected feed for each group was controlled (Figure 2). The quantity
of the rejected feed affects negatively the economy of rearing the calves intended for
replacement, increasing the costs of production. A considerably smaller quantity of the
refused feed was recorded in the OHG; after 13 weeks of the experiment a dramatic decline
of the rejected feed was found in both discussed groups.
Figure 2
The refused feed in case of the examined animals, kg/d
The appetite of animals is greatly dependent on the temperature of their environment,
therefore, the effect of the mean daily temperature and housing system on the mean daily
Wójcik et al.: Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different housing systems
634
gains of the calves was examined (Table 5). It was revealed that the interaction between the
mentioned variables was highly significant. At a temperature below 0 °C, the calves from
the hutches revealed a growth rate on the level of 521.8 g/day; in the calf pen, a temperature
below 0 °C was not recorded. Below the minimal temperature (<8 °C), the calves from the
»cold rearing« showed 1.16 % higher daily gains compared to the animals kept indoor. At the
optimal temperature (12-16 °C) cow calves kept in calf pens had higher daily gains compared
to the animals reared in the hutches; the difference was equal to 205.7 g/day. Above the
optimal temperature, daily gains of the calves from the building were higher than those
from individual hutches what was caused by better shadow and a smaller exhibition of
the calves from the building to the sun. In both housing systems, it was observed that the
animals had higher gains at temperatures lower than the optimal one what would confirm
the thesis that together with the decline of temperature of the environment, the calves had
more effective gain.
Table 5
Average daily gains of calves depending on the mean daily temperature and housing system during the 1st
month of life
Mean temperature Outdoor Indoor
°C nLSM SE nLSM SE
<0 29 521.8 29.85 - - -
0..1 – 8..0 50 654.1 21.19 49 646.6 24.8
8..1 – 11..9 17 522.8 38.50 31 666.3 28.3
12..0 – 16..0 °C 21 538.4 38.09 31 744.1 29.38
>16..1 ° C 15 562 .6 41.41 22 635.1 31.91
Interaction of mean daily temperature and housing system on daily gains of the calves was highly significant
(P≤0.01)
The observations concerning the health state are given in Table 6. In the calves from the
OHG, 11 % less cases of alimentary tract diseases and 8.2 % less cases of respiratory system
diseases were recorded. The calves from the IHG were not only more susceptible to diarrhoea
and pneumonia but also favourable for the incidence of mechanical trauma (in Table 5 being
marked as »other«) which resulted in the occurrence of non-specific inflammations of mucous
membranes of the oral cavity. Such cases were not recorded in the animals from the hutches.
During the duration of the experiment, one calf from the IHG and one calf from the OHG died;
index of mortality was equal to 2.2 %.
Table 6
Health of calves during the experiment
Group Diarrhea Pneumonia Others Deaths
Outdoor No. of cases
%
3
6..8
15
34
0
0
1
2..2
Indoor No. of cases
%
8
17.. 8
19
42..2
4
8..9
1
2..2
Archiv Tierzucht 56 (2013) 63, 628-637 635
Discussion
In Poland, the interest of the breeders in cold rearing of the calves outside the building
increased during the recent years. The system of the calf housing has undoubtedly an effect
on the results of rearing the animals and their health state, which are connected with their
later productivity. Bad microclimate conditions in old farm buildings lead to considerable
economic losses caused by higher morbidity and mortality of cow calves. The introduction of
individual rearing of animals – outside the building – at least during the first month of life of
the calves seems to be the optimal solution.
The results of the studies of Jorgenson et al. (1969) and of Hill et al. (2011) confirm that the
calves kept in the IHG had quicker body gains compared to the calves from the OHG. Different
results were presented by Phillips (2004), who observed lower body gains in the calves from
group housing (0.70 kg/d) in comparison to the calves from individual management system
(0.88 kg/d), similarly as Razzaque et al. (2009) and Murley & Culvahouse (1958).
The own studies revealed that the calves kept in groups took more feed than the OHG
animals what was confirmed by Jorgenson et al. (1969) and Hill et al. (2011). Phillips (2004)
found that the calves kept individually spent more time on lying compared to the calves
managed in groups, which may learn to take the feed at the mentioned time. Earley et al.
(2004) did not find any differences between the calves from outdoor and indoor housing
systems in spite of the fact that all animals were individually managed. After the 9th week of
life, the cow calves show a considerable increase in feed intake what is probably connected
with the development of the rumen as the dimension of the rumen in calves is proportional
to their body weight (Vazquez-Anon et al. 1993), hence, the trend of feed intake was
maintained until the 3rd month of life.
The consumption of feed is greatly dependent on temperature, occurring in the calf
house. The own studies revealed that cow calves reached better gains at lower temperatures
e. g. in winter than in summer what was confirmed by other authors – Chester-Jones et al.
(2008) cit. after Hill et al. (2011) and McKnight (1978). Ensuring the optimal temperature and
the possibility of social contacts to the calves (management in the group) resulted in better
gains. Above the optimal temperature daily gains of the calves from individual hutches
were lower what was caused by worse shadowing and exhibition to the sun. Coleman et al.
(1996) recorded that the calves staying in the shadow showed less breaths per minute in the
contrary to the »non-shadowed« animals, what is an evidence of smaller thermal stress of
the mentioned calves. In both housing systems it was observed that the animals had higher
gains at temperatures lower than the optimal one compared to those which were higher
than the optimal temperature; it would confirm the thesis that together with the decline of
temperature, the calves had more effective gains.
The calves kept individually outside the building were characterised by a better health
state what was also confirmed in the studies of Razzaque et al. (2009) and of Jorgenson et
al. (1969). Rearing in the traditional calf house was favourable for dissemination of germs
and the animals kept in the group were more endangered to health problems compared to
individually managed animals. Callan & Gary (2002) confirm that the incidence of enzootic
pneumonia (Enzootic pneumonia) of calves is traditionally connected with a weak ventilation
of calf houses. Disturbances of the respiratory system and diarrhoea are more popular among
Wójcik et al.: Comparison of calves' rearing parameters in two different housing systems
636
the calves being found in the traditional calf house compared to the animals reared in the
external pens (Davis et al. 1954, Earley et al. 2004).
In the own studies, a very low index of mortality was achieved; it was identical for both
groups, however Jorgenson et al. (1969) recorded a greater number of death cases in the
indoor housing, similarly as Razzaque et al. (2009), who recorded a high index of mortality for
the calves reared in the traditional calf house (0.23 %), in comparison to 0.017 % for individual
hutches.
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... Wójcik et al. (2012) demonstrated that cold rearing of calves lead to greater health status, as well as greater demand for feed, which resulted in increases in weight of the animals during the period when milk replacer was no longer used. Another study by Wójcik et al. (2013) is in favor of the traditional rearing. The older calves kept in calf stables exhibit greater demand for food and, consequently, had the higher body weights. ...
... The booths had elevated temperature and humidity in comparison to modernized calf stable. Results of Nordlund (2008) and Wójcik et al. (2013) indicate that the risk of disease occurs in inappropriate microclimate conditions-improper ventilation and humidity, which increases microbial contamination. ...
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The aim of the study was to analyze calves rearing on the basis of selected parameters of growth in different housing systems with regard to the assessment of microbial flora taken from the nasal cavity of animals. The study was performed on 28 calves of Polish Holstein-Friesian Black-and-White variety (PHF HO). The average weight of calves at the age of three months differed depending on the housing system. Individuals in igloo type booths were heavier as compared to the traditionally reared calves. The differences regarding the final weight of heifer calves were statistically significant (P ≤ 0.05). In the cold and traditional rearing bulls had a larger mass than heifer calves. In traditional rearing, results of analysis of the swabs from the nasal cavities revealed the presence of pathogenic or opportunistic bacteria at the level of the average number of micro-organisms (11-50 CFU) or high (> 50 CFU), which negatively affected the health of the calves. However, in cold rearing there was recorded absence or presence of microorganisms in the nasal cavity in a small amount (<10 CFU).
... It was observed in this study that calves housed separately were less diseased than calves housed aggregately. Similar report was documented by Pereira et al. (2014), Wójcik et al. (2013) and Cuttance et al. (2017) as group/aggregate housing of pre-weaning calves had positive correlation with the prevalence of calve disease because in group housing system the number of infectious pathogens responsible for the occurrence of the disease were very high. However, Klein-Jöbstl et al. (2014) disagree with this study result and stated that grouping/ aggregating large number of calves together was not significantly associated with the appearance of diarrhea on the farm but the number of the calves in the group had significant role in the disease occurrence and transmission among the group members. ...
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... Calves reared in groups showed higher final live weight than calves reared individually (255 vs. 249 kg, P≤0.05) due to the higher daily weight gain (P<0.001) during the second period (Xiccato et al., 2002). Results of Wójcik, et al. (2013) revealed that during the first month, the calves from both groups achieved the same daily gains. However, older calves kept in-door were characterized by better daily gains, feed intake and as a result, body weight. ...
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A study compared the traditional housing of veal calves in individual crates (IC) with group pen housing (GP). Thirty-four pure Holstein male calves (67.6±4.9 kg LW) imported from Poland were used, of which 16 were kept tethered in IC while the remaining animals were housed in six pens of three calves each. The growth trial lasted 142 days during which the calves were fed only a milk replacer diet. Calves health, average daily gain (ADG) and feed efficiency (FE) were similar between types of housing throughout the trial. However, GP calves had higher ADG (1387 vs. 1317 g/day; P<0.05) and better FE (1.83 vs. 1.94; P<0.05) than IC calves in the last 72 days of the trial. Behavioural measurements were taken at the 10th week of the study. The GP calves were allowed to adopt more comfortable resting postures and displayed increased social behaviour than the IC calves. Haemoglobin in samples taken at the end of the growing cycle was higher in GP than in IC calves (10.9 vs. 7.7 g/100 ml; P<0.01). At slaughter, the dressing percentage was unaffected by the housing system, but GP calves showed a better carcass conformation than IC calves. Meat quality evaluation was carried out on the Longissimus thoracis muscle. The meat of GP calves had lower intramuscular fat content (3.92 vs. 6.85% DM; P<0.01) and showed a better tenderness and flavour than that of the IC calves. Consistent with the haemoglobin data, the calves reared in group pens produced carcasses and meat with a darker colour than calves in individual crates.