This study was conducted to determine the effect of feeding high milk volumes on the
growth rate, health and cross-sucking behaviour in group-fed Jersey calves. Three-day-old
heifers (n = 120) in a seasonal calving dairy herd were randomly assigned to one of 6
treatment groups. Three groups received high milk volumes (HMV), consisting of ad libitum
milk or milk replacer feeding twice a day, while 3 groups received restricted milk volumes
(RMV), consisting of 2 twice daily, during the pre-weaning period. After a pre-weaning
period during which feeding was reduced to once daily, all calves were weaned at 42 days
and monitored until 60 days of age.Adjusting for birth mass, birth date,damparity and sire,
average daily mass gain (ADG), both pre-weaning (days 0–42) and overall (days 0–60), was
higher inHMVthan inRMVcalves (P<0.001).After weaning, growth rates showed no differences
and at 60 days of age the HMV calves maintained a 6.74 kg advantage in mean
body mass (P < 0.001). The mean intake of dry starter feed was higher in RMV than in
HMVcalves. Overall feed conversion rate ofHMVcalves was 9.6%better thanRMVcalves.
However, the variable cost per kg mass gain was 12 % higher for HMV calves. In the
RMV groups 75 % of calves showed cross-sucking behaviour pre-weaning and 18 %
post-weaning, whereas in HMV calves the proportions were 2 % and 7 %, respectively.
There was no significant effect of milk volume on the incidence of diarrhoea.We conclude
that the feeding of high volumes of milk to Jersey calves has a positive effect on growth rate,
without compromising health or reducing solid feed intake after weaning. However, the
higher cost of such a feeding system may limit its implementation.