Cow and calf together at Tingvoll gard. (Photo: Anita Land)
Cow and calf together at Tingvoll gard. (Photo: Anita Land)

Separation of cow and calf

The aim of the project was to explore the effect of two different separation methods on stress-related behaviour in cows and calves in an organic dairy farm.


An experiment was carried out at Tingvoll gard from 2011 to 2017 which consisted of eleven rounds with a total of 22 cow-calf pairs. Cows and calves were together in a calving pen for between three to five weeks before being separated. Separation method 1 was abrupt separation, where the calves were first moved to another barn 300 meters away, and method 3 was a two-stage separation with fenceline where the calves were first moved to a pen inside the cow’s free stall. Through the fenceline, cow and calf could hear and see each other, and they could have contact with their muzzles. The calves stayed in this pen for four days before being moved to another part of the barn. Different forms of behaviour in cows and calves at days 1, 2 and 3 after the day of separation (day 0) were recorded by continuous and instantaneous observations. These behaviours included vocalizations, and how much the animals were lying, standing, moving around and eating/drinking.