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ILVO press release - Thursday, April 12, 2018

From ideally monitored heifer calf into a fitter, more productive and more efficient cow?

ILVO starts a new VLAIO research project called ‘JongLeven’ (Young life)
In dairy farming, a young heifer must - in theory and if everything goes well - not only be fit and mature at 24 months, but also calve for first time. In practice, this goal is not always achieved. Every extra month that the young calf needs to become a productive cow is 'an avoidable expense'.
Researchers from ILVO, Inagro and Hooibeekhoeve have therefore started the VLAIO project ‘JongLeven’ (Young life) to improve the rearing of heifer calves. "By comparing different regimes and rations during the rearing period to performances in terms of first calving, milk yield, rumen action, and long-term health of the adult cow, we will be able to draw conclusions about a more optimal life production," says ILVO researcher Sabrina Curial.
As average, Flemish dairy farm has two important cost items. Feed is the biggest. Rearing young stock to replace culled cows is the second largest.

1st CALL: Tell us how you raise your heifer calves and win a refractometer

The JongLeven project relies on close collaboration with the Flemish dairy farmers from the outset. The first step is to obtain an as broad as possible view of rearing strategies as they happen at Flemish dairy farms.
"We hereby call on all dairy farmers to complete our non-binding summary survey on," says Leen Vandaele, an ILVO researcher. The fastest respondents can win a refractometer. The survey deadline is May 2018.

2nd CALL: Let YOUR heifer calves be ‘measured’

In order to find out clearly and on time where are adjustments needed, the researchers want to identify the critical control points in the rearing process. That is why the growth and development of heifer calves on dozens of Flemish dairy farms will be closely monitored. Dairy farmers can apply for this in the same survey on Specifically, the researchers are looking for farmers who are willing to chart the performance of their young calves and/or farmers who want to improve their calves rearing and would like to find solutions within the JongLeven project, and all of this being consulted with the veterinarian and other beneficiaries.


Greet Riebbels, ILVO Communication,, M +32 486 26 00 14
Sabrina Curial, ILVO cattle expert,, T +32 9 272 26 07