The time required to adequately bucket-train a dairy calf to drink its milk allotment is unknown. Additionally, factors that could predict calves who are slow to learn have not been identified. A prospective observational study was conducted to describe timing of bucket training and possible calf birth and colostrum quality factors that might predict calves requiring extra time to train. On one dairy farm, 1,235 calves were enrolled at birth in a prospective cohort study. Calving ease score, calf presentation at birth, twinning, calf sex, and dam parity were recorded by farm personnel. An as-fed colostrum sample for each calf was collected and evaluated for total solids, total plate bacterial count, and coliform bacterial count. Calf serum total protein values were obtained by d 2 to 3 of life. Calves were observed before the morning milk feeding for attitude/posture, and after feeding for assistance needed to drink milk from their bucket. Attitude/posture was significantly associated with whether a calf required assistance or not. Almost 60% (n = 724) of calves consumed their morning milk allotment (2 L) after d 3 of life without assistance. Significant factors associated with the odds of requiring assistance with drinking after 3 d of age included calf sex, being born a twin, and the week the calf was enrolled. Knowing how long it takes to train a calf to drink from a bucket could be useful in allocating the time or labor required to successfully train calves.
Keywords: bucket training; neonatal risk; pre-weaned calf.
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