Background: Calf disease may result in great economic losses. To implement prevention strategies it is important to gain information on management and to point out risk factors. The objective of this internet based survey was to describe calf management practices on registered dairy breeding farms in Austria and to estimate differences in calf disease incidences depending on farm structure and management practices. Results: A total of 1287 questionnaires were finally analysed (response rate 12.2 %). Herd characteristics and regional distribution of farms indicated that this survey gives a good overview on calf management practices on registered dairy farms in Austria. The median number of cows per farm was 20 (interquartile range 13-30). Significant differences regarding farm characteristics and calf management between small and large farms (≤20 vs >20 cows) were present. Only 2.8 % of farmers tested first colostrum quality by use of a hydrometer. Storing frozen colostrum was more prevalent on large farms (80.8 vs 64.2 %). On 85.1 % of the farms, whole milk, including waste milk, was fed to the calves. Milk replacer and waste milk were more often used on large farms. In accordance with similar studies from other countries, calf diarrhoea was indicated as the most prevalent disease. Multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed that herd size was associated with calf diarrhoea and calf respiratory tract disease, with higher risk of disease on large farms. Furthermore, feeding waste milk to the calves was associated with increasing calf diarrhoea incidence on farm. In the final model with calf respiratory tract disease as outcome, respondents from organic farms reported less often a respiratory tract disease incidence of over 10 % compared with conventional farms [odds ratio (OR) 0.40, 95 % conidence interval (CI) 0.21-0.75] and farmers that housed calves individually or in groups after birth significantly reported more often to have an incidence of respiratory tract disease >10 % compared with farms where all calves were housed individually (OR 2.28, 95 % CI 1.16-4.48). Conclusion: The results obtained in this study provide an overview on calf management on dairy breeding farms in Austria and may help to further point out areas to be improved on farm.
Klein-Jöbstl, D., Arnholdt, T., Sturmlechner, F., Iwersen, M., Drillich, M., Results of an online questionnaire to survey calf management practices on dairy cattle breeding farms in Austria and to estimate differences in disease incidences depending on farm structure and management practices, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, Volume: 57 Issue: 1 Pages: 1-10 Published: AUG 2015.