ProYoungStock – Promoting young stock and cow health and welfare by natural feeding systems

Last changed: 04 January 2023

In modern dairy production, calf rearing with early separation from the mother is one of the practices that is most strongly questioned by consumers. There are different strategies for allowing cow-calf contact in dairy production implying possible benefits but also challenges. The effects of natural rearing and feeding strategies on health, welfare and economic performance need further investigation in order to solve current problems and to find best practises.

The objectives of ProYoungStock are to collect, to develop and to assess natural feeding strategies increasing dairy livestock welfare in different
agro-ecological and regulatory European contexts. This will be achieved by
improving the rearing of calves pre-weaning and designing forage based feeding strategies for heifers and adult cows, both fostering the animal's immune status and reducing the use of antibiotics and anthelmintics.

Main activities:

  • Identifying innovative young stock rearing systems that allow calf-cow contact implemented by pioneer farmers across Europe
  • Evaluating the impact of these systems on cow and calf welfare and economic performance
  • Testing the hypothesis that contents of immunoglobulins in colostrum and in milk might be stimulated either due to cow-calf contact or due to feed supplements
  • Studying the effect of increased milk amounts fed to organic dairy calves in terms of welfare, natural behaviour and performance
  • Assessing long-term effects of different environmental and feeding conditions during rearing on health, longevity and fertility later in life
  • Evaluating the potential of plant bioactive compounds in pasture-based production systems to improve protein use efficiency, animal health, and immune response (natural anthelmintic) as well as product quality
  • Sharing project results with farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders through workshops and leaflets, guidelines, practice abstracts, articles, and websites and scientific publications


Start of project: 2018-04-01 – 2021-03-31

Financiär: ERA-NET CORE Organic Cofund


  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
  • Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
  • University of Kassel
  • Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding Polish Academy of Sciences (IGHZ)
  • Slovenian Holstein Association (HF-SLO)
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
  • University of Catania (UCat)


Karin Alvåsen
Researcher at the Department of Clinical Sciences; Veterinary Epidemiology Unit

Telephone: 018-671323, 070-5413227