Evaluating Calf Management Practices on NNY Dairy Farms and the Impact on Future Production and Profitability

Worksite Location
The intern will work across the NNY region, including CCE associations in St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties.
Faculty Sponsor
Dr. Mike Van Amburgh
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Kim Morrill (NNY Dairy Specialist), Kitty O'Neil (NNY Soils and Field Crops Specialist), Harry FeFee (Franklin County Agriculture Educator)
Wages Up To
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Group housing of calves continues to gain more popularity on Northern New York dairy farms. This management strategy has both advantages: labor savings, calf socialization and increased feed intakes, and disadvantages including the increased risk of calfhood illness.

Project activities include: evaluating air quality parameters, current rates of cross-suckling, calf health and rates of illness and treatment among groups of pre-weaned calves in NNY. On a subset of calves researchers will evaluate the impact of various weaning strategies that can be utilized in group housed calves. From these evaluations management recommendations will be developed for group housed calves as well as specific recommendations will be developed for the participating farms.

Expected outcomes: 1) Cross suckling of pre-weaned calves will increase rates of illness and treatments on farms. 2) Cross suckling during the weaning period is impacted by weaning strategy. 3) Air quality impact calf health. 4) Specific management recommendations will be developed for group housed calves in Northern New York.

Roles and Responsibilities

Student responsibilities will include: conducting herd management surveys, evaluating calf health, collecting health and treatments records, collecting water samples and developing a database of information. Additionally the student will help evaluate the information to determine steps to improve management. The student will play a role in suggesting management changes to producers as well as evaluating the impact of changes; this will include both production and economic impacts to the farming operation.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CALS freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

The student needs to have a strong understanding of dairy management, specifically calf management programs and calf health. Additionally the student should have strong communication skills, be well organized, able to develop and maintain excel spreadsheets.

Benefits and Skills

The student will gain knowledge on managing pre-weaned calves in various environments (group and single housed calves). This information will be gained by learning how to evaluate air quality, calf health and the overall management strategies utilized on Northern New York farms to raise calves. The student will also have the opportunity to develop management suggestions to farms and evaluate the production and economic impacts of implementing suggested management changes. Additionally, the student will also gain a greater understanding of the economic importance of the Northern New York Dairy Industry.