Calf comfort key to successful management

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Editor's Note: This Tip of the Week has been brought to you by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association (DCHA). 

Calf raisers are responsible for raising healthy calves. However, successfully raising healthy dairy replacements has its challenges.

 

There are both uncontrollable and controllable circumstances growers face on a daily basis, including extreme temperatures. However, growers can make these conditions tolerable by providing a comfortable physical environment for calves.

 

When placed in a comfortable environment, calves utilize the nutrients in their diet for growth. A calf that is placed in an uncomfortable setting has to focus on coping with environmental stressors, such as trying to stay warm or cool.

 

Providing a comfortable environment includes:

  • Having clean food and water easily accessible to calves.
  • Providing a dry housing facility. Having proper drainage is important to keeping the calf housing dry. If you are using hutches, they should be placed on top of gravel to enable drainage under the bedding.
  • Providing a dry, well-bedded area for calves adds to their comfort. Bedding should be changed between calves and adjusted in colder temperatures to provide adequate warmth.
  • If housed outdoors, calves should be able to escape the elements. Providing hutches or a central shelter for calves to escape the heat or draft increases the comfort of calves.
  • Providing proper ventilation will help eliminate moisture during the winter and heat in the summer, as well as allow old air to leave and fresh air to enter the calf housing, aid in controlling dust, heat and odors.
    • Humidity makes calves damp and sick. 
    • Heat makes calves uncomfortable, causing them to get sick and grow slowly.

DCHA Gold Standards III provides more information about comfortable housing for your calves.



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