Cow and calf graizing together (Photo: Juni Rosann E. Johanssen)
Cow and calf graizing together (Photo: Juni Rosann E. Johanssen)

Dairy cow and calf together at pasture

- a dairy farm system for better animal welfare

In organic dairy farming in Norway there is a requirement that the calf should suckle the cow for at least three days after birth, with a shorter suckling period than one month, the calf should be able to drink milk from an artificial teat until it is one month old, and it must have natural milk for at least three months. Farming systems were cow and calf are separated within a few days after birth, as is often the case today, are not optimal in relation to the natural behavioural needs of the animals. A longer period together for cow and calf can, among other things, provide better health and welfare for cow and calf as well as better weight gain and robustness for the calf.

In this project, we will explore the possibility of implementing cow calf togetherness in organic dairy systems, with a focus on spring calving so that they can be together at pasture. We will be conducting interviews and farm studies at ten farms with farmers who are practicing or would like to practice co-grazing with cow and calf for a longer period, both for heifer calves and bull calves, instead of separating them shortly after birth.

Through this project we will gain increased knowledge about how we can organize farming systems that provide better animal welfare and greater opportunities for natural behaviour for cows and calves under Norwegian conditions.