Effects of Age of Dairy Calves First Offered Free Drinking Water on Feed Intake, Growth, and Health

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Offering adequate amount of clean drinking water to dairy calves has become recently a significant concern in the dairy industry. This also brought attention to the fact that many dairy farmers wait for a couple of weeks to offer drinking water to newly borne calves even though offering water from birth is the recommendation. Neonate calves could consume considerable amount of water via whole milk or milk replacer but it’s not clear that amount alone would fulfill the water requirements to support growth and development. The present study was conducted to examine the effects of receiving drinking water from birth or about two weeks (wk) later on water and grain intake, and growth and health performances of Holstein heifer calves receiving a large amount (6 to 9 kg/d) of whole milk. The results revealed that, when offered from birth, calves drank significant amount (0.70 kg) of water in addition to a large amount of water they received via whole milk (about 5.0 kg/d) during the first two weeks of their life. Calves not receiving drinking water from birth consumed more grain and drank more water, once offered. Nonetheless, both groups achieved similar drinking water and grain intakes by the time they were 5 wk old. Regardless of the water and grain intake differences during neonate life, calves receiving or not receiving drinking water from birth had similar growth rates and body weight from birth to 10 wk of age. Nonetheless, calves receiving water from birth tended to have lower scours scores, and greater body lengths and hip heights after weaning compared to the calves receiving drinking water later. Overall, offering drinking water to calves from birth itself appeared to offer positive benefits even in systems promoting a large amount of liquid feed (whole milk or milk replacer) intake.


How to Cite: Wickramasinghe, J. & Appuhamy, R. (2018) “Effects of Age of Dairy Calves First Offered Free Drinking Water on Feed Intake, Growth, and Health”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report. 15(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.31274/ans_air-180814-372