Another Note on Cross-Sucking
In addition to the Calving Ease newsletter on cross-sucking (September, 2013 or click Here) data from a New Zealand study suggest another tool to use when trying to suppress this problem.[Margerison and Others, "The effect of solid feed diet on the oral and cross-sucking behavior of pre-weaned dairy calves." Journal of Dairy Science E-Suppl 1, #615]
They compared feeding solid rations to preweaned calves of low forage alfalfa TMR (LF), higher forage alfalfa TMR (HF) or perennial rye grass hay with a pelleted starter (HPS). Calves were followed out to 12 weeks of age.
Cross-sucking was highest for the low forage ration, intermediate for the higher forage ration and lowest for the grass hay/pelleted starter ration. The authors conclude, "While cross-sucking was not entirely eliminated, providing perennial ryegrass hay along with a pelleted starter resulted in the least non-nutritive sucking behavior."
Thus,we have another tool in group housing - providing a limited amount of palatable hay - not so much as to suppress calf starter grain consumption (remember how small the rumen is at the pre-weaned stage) but enough to promote lots of cud chewing.
By the way, the grass hay/pellet ration calves had the highest dry matter intakes (3.7 pounds/day compared to 1.8 pounds/day for low forage TMR and 2 pounds/day for high forage TMR). Since dry matter intake drives growth these grass hay/pellet ration calves had the highest rate of gain.