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Sawdust is the preferred rearing substrate of dairy calves in New Zealand

G. M. Worth, K. E. Schütz, M. Stewart, V. M. Cave, M. Foster, M. A. Sutherland

THE type of rearing substrate used is an important consideration in calf management, as it can influence the behaviour, physiology and health of calves. Traditional substrates, such as sawdust, are becoming difficult and/or expensive for farmers to obtain in New Zealand so there is a need to find an alternative that provides an acceptable level of animal welfare. Although organic materials are commonly used as rearing substrates for dairy calves in New Zealand, there is a recent trend to move away from such materials because of hygiene concerns, their lack of availability and their cost. As a result, use of materials such as granite fines, stones, sand and rubber chips is being investigated. This study aimed to investigate the preference of dairy calves for different rearing substrates.

Twenty-four one-week-old calves were housed in pens in groups of four. Each pen had four sections filled with a different substrate (sawdust, rubber, sand or stone), and the study involved four consecutive testing periods. These were an …

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