Management considerations to prevent respiratory disease in group-housed preweaned dairy calves
Group housing systems for preweaned dairy calves offer certain benefits including increased flexibility of labor and earlier calf socialization. However, the comingling of preweaned dairy calves will increase the opportunity for pathogen transmission. As a consequence, increased morbidity, and particularly bovine respiratory disease, is frequently a challenge in these systems. Producers committed to adopting group housing should carefully consider how to best design and manage facilities, and how best to manage calves within the system, with a view to minimizing infectious disease challenge and maximizing immunity. In a preceding companion article, Dr. Theresa Ollivett (University of Wisconsin – Madison) discusses a number of important facility design and management principles, the importance of sanitation, and pair housing. The current article will discuss other (non-facility related) best management practices for group-housed preweaned dairy calves, including colostrum management, group composition and dynamics, nutritional management, and disease detection.