Increased respiratory disease can be a persistent problem in naturally ventilated calf barns in winter. But do not let your guard down yet. The chilly, unpredictable weather of late winter and early spring can still present healthcompromising conditions for calves. Continue to follow these key practices that help reduce respiratory disease in naturally ventilated calf barns:
• Provide deep, fluffy bedding that covers a calf’s legs, allowing her to “nest” and lose less body heat.
• “Blankets certainly do help keep calves warm, but only if they are clean and dry,” say veterinary experts in The Dairyland Initiative NEWS, Winter 2012. “Wet blankets and bedding result in wet calves that require even more energy to stay warm than a dry calf.”
• Provide a minimal, yet necessary, number of solid dividers (only between calves for preventing spread of disease).
• Keep airborne bacterial counts low by keeping air within the pens fresh and dry. Supplemental positive pressure ventilation (tube) systems improve air quality in barns at calf level, without creating drafts.