Heat stress in calves can affect animal welfare and causes higher levels of morbidity and mortality while lowering weight gain. Researchers at Washington State University recently investigated whether the simple practice of elevating the backs of plastic calf hutches with a concrete block could assist in heat abatement and improve calf well-being.

In the study, 15 preweaned heifer calves in plastic hutches were evaluated over two, 24-hour periods in late June. One evaluation involved no hutch elevation, while the other included hutch elevation. The results of elevating the hutches included:

  • Internal temperatures were cooler than external temperatures.
  • Airspeed inside the hutch increased; there was virtually no air movement inside the non-elevated hutches.
  • Hutch carbon dioxide levels were lower.
  • Calf respiration rates were lower, particularly in the afternoon.
  • Calves were much more likely to be lying inside the hutch rather than lying outside or standing inside or outside.

The researchers concluded that elevating hutches in hot weather is a simple and efficient means of improving calf well-being.