The best Possible Start Into Life- Stage 2- Pre-Weaned Milk Calf

NEWS Nicola Gras

We are so happy to announce that every week we will be discussing the different stages of a cow’s life. We at Agri-Comfort are experts in this field and wish to share our knowledge with you.

Stage 2

Pre-weaned calves

Raising Calves – Indoors or Outdoors? What’s best for MY calves

Any Farmer who is planning to remodel his calf rearing facilities is faced with a fundamental decision from the start of the planning process: A decision stands in front of the Farmer:  Should I keep my calves indoors in a calf barn? Or do I keep them in outdoor hutches?

The dairy farming industry seems to go through waves of ‘trends’, where the common calf barn was replaced by outdoor hutches over the past couple of decades and now it’s coming back with new calf barns being built again.

Generally said: there is no wrong or right! Carefully planned and designed both indoor and outdoor facilities can work perfectly well. 

Here are 3 key aspects to consider and how to overcome them with either system:

 

 

1. Climatic Condition: 

Most farmers worry about the cold temperatures they experience during winter at their farms. But the real challenge is moisture. Calves are quite capable of adapting to very cold temperatures, as long as they are DRY.

Without a doubt it is much easier to manage calves in outdoor hutches in a dry climate. It’s important to keep the calves themselves dry at all times, and that might be more challenging in a more humid climate. But with the right positioning of the hutch, liberate bedding management and a calf coat your calves stay dry and warm inside their hutches. 

It’s a question of management, not a matter of the housing style.

 

 

2. Fresh Air:

Calves in outdoor hutches have it easy in this respect, they simply step out of their hutch and have an unlimited supply of fresh air to breathe. 

If we look at calf barns, it gets a bit more complicated than that. In order to get enough fresh air towards the calves, it is not enough to simply open up the sides of the barn or just make it ‘big enough’. A very loft layout is a great start for a calf barn, but since these barns completely rely on winds to naturally ventilate the barn, then this is not enough in order to get fresh air to the calves. The solution to this problem is to add forced ventilation to the barn. With positive pressure tubes that run directly over the calf pens and force fresh outside air towards the calves’ noses, your calves will be as happy as the calves nested in outdoor hutches. 

 

3. Biosecurity and Hygiene: 

Naturally, calves in outdoor hutches will have more space and more air movement around them than barn calves, leading to a reduced risk of transmitting infectious disease from one calf to the next in an outdoor solution. It’s also nice knowing that in case a really virulent pathogen strain enters your herd, you have the option of moving the freshly cleaned hutches somewhere far away from the ‘epicenter’ for the next groups of calves. 

Of course, the last option is not available with a calf barn, but you can still design your barn in a way that good biosecurity measurements can be easily implicated. 

A great start is a continuous concrete floor with slopes and drains. This allows: a) easy cleaning and good disinfection results, and b) good drainage of the calf pens when they are in use. To be able to clean the floor completely and effectively, it’s crucial that the pens do not need to be attached to the floor. A freestanding pen construction is also helpful for efficient cleaning of the pens themselves. You really should never clean with a power washer inside the barn when calves are still present. So, being able to remove single pen components and clean them outside in a designated area, will help reduce the amount of humidity and harmful aerosols inside the barn. 

In conclusion, it can be stated that both indoor and outdoor solutions have their benefits and obstacles, but with some smart planning and continuous effort they all can be overcome. Calves are happy whether they are inside or outside a building, they just need you to take good care of them. 

Stage 2 of the cow’s life has now been described. Have you any comments? Thoughts? Comment below!

 

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