Calf management is as important as managing your cows, they are the future herd therefore they need looking after. It costs on average £2,000 to rear a heifer to calve at two years therefore providing the best start is very important. Disease will not only hit growth rates but loss in performance throughout their lactations. One area that is often neglected as usually investment is needed, is housing. Calves are often reared in old farm buildings that were once tie stall cow accommodation that lack light, drainage and most importantly ventilation. Air space is just as important as floor area. Pneumonia has the biggest impact on calf mortality. If they survive, often their lungs are scarred for life affecting their wellbeing and genetic potential.
• Ventilation – inlet areas – allow .05 metres2 per calf, outlet area .04m2 and needs to be a minimum of 1.5 metres above the inlet. Performing a smoke bomb test will show how good or bad the ventilation is within the building.
• Drainage – concrete flooring is best suited with a slope of 5% with a drainage channel to take moisture away especially around feeding areas. High Humidity should be minimised for good calf health.
• Draft Free – calf health will suffer if they are in a draft, a good guide is to sit in the calf pen and evaluate drafts; there is a fine line between good air flow and draft – airflow should be above the calf and not at calf living space.
• Space allowance – Most milk buyers are now stipulating that calves should not be penned individually therefore the table is based on grouping calves by age – keep group sizes to 12 or below, this helps pick up sick animals easily so they can be isolated and treated promptly.
Calf Building design can be very simple in layout if the above guidelines are followed. If you would like any advice on calf housing, then contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG office.