A new report is available for download from the AgriSearch website. This PhD study was carried out by Alistair Boyle with assistance from Niamh O'Connell and Conrad Ferris.
The study looked at managment strategies for first lactation heifer to maximise health, welfare and performance. In particular the study set out to answer four questions:
- Are there benefits in introducing dairy heifers to the main dairy herd in the evening rather than the morning?
- Does housing nulliparous cows with multiparous animals prior to calving influence welfare and performance after calving?
- Should primiparous cows be housed separately from multiparous animals during the two-week period after calving?
- Does increasing the length of time primiparous cows stay in straw-bedded calving pens improve welfare and performance during the post calving period?
In summary, the research suggests that it is beneficial from a welfare perspective to introduce calved dairy heifers into a lactating group containing older animals after evening milking, and also to mix them with older animals prior to calving. Furthermore, retaining heifers in a straw-bedded calving pen for slightly longer than normal, and in a ‘primiparous cow group’ during the initial post-calving period also appears to be beneficial for welfare.