• Strong management reduces mortality among organic dairy calves

Far too many organic calves die young. They have a higher mortality rate than conventional calves, partly because they suffer more from diarrhea in the first few weeks of life.

Calves in organic dairy herds stay with their mothers for at least the first 24 hours. They are grouped with other calves when they are one week old and they have to be fed with cow’s milk for the first 13 weeks and are out grazing in the summer half. These rules are believed to be good for calf welfare.
Though, new results show that organic calves in the first weeks of life have a higher level of diarrhea than conventional calves. One of the primary causes of a higher mortality could therefore be the high incidence of diarrhea.

Purpose of the project 

The purpose of the project is to develop best management practice and a strategy based on new methods and recommendations to reach a lower incidence of diarrhea in the first six weeks of life, so that more calf lives can be saved.

With six experiments, scientists and farmers will examine whether the level of diarrhea will be reduced if (a) the organic calves in their first few hours of life are given a supplement of colostrum from cows with a very good immune status, (b) calves are penned in pairs rather than in large groups and (c) milk hygiene is improved through pasteurisation of the cow’s milk fed to organic calves.

ViOrCa runs in the period 2016-2018. 

Project leader

Jan Tind Sørensen
Department of Animal Science,
Epidemiology and management Aarhus University  

Phone: +45 8715 7923

Project partners

Finn Strudsholm

Hans Christian Christiansen