A study conducted by the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine concludes that polyethylene calf hutches provide a cooler alternative to open wire hutches throughout the heat of summer.

The study was conducted by Carlos Risco, professor of food animal reproduction and medicine service at the University of Florida’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. Risco’s team’s goal was to determine calf performance and health of calves raised in polyethylene hutches with ridge top vents and rear adjustable doors versus housing built of open wire during peak summer temperatures in Florida. Risco indicates that a primary component of the study was to determine the correlation between outside temperatures, the climate near each calf and overall calf health.

For the trial, 100 heifer calves born in June 2010 were randomly assigned to a polyethylene hutch or a wire hutch and remained in the allocated housing until being weaned that August. Outside temperatures in Bell, Fla., averaged 80, 83 and 84 degrees F in June, July and August respectively, with an outside temperature humidity index of 78.8 percent. High temperatures for each of the months at the location of the trial were: 98, 97 and 98 degrees F, respectively. Over the course of the study, data were collected on outside temperatures, hutch temperatures, calf weaning weights and calf respiratory rates in order to measure calf performance.

The research indicated the enclosed polyethylene calf hutches offered protection from the sun throughout the day and had the coolest temperatures inside during both the coolest and hottest parts of the day.

The combination of the polyethylene plastic and an ultraviolet-blocking pigment in the hutch material encouraged calves to stay inside the protected area during peak temperatures, while an outdoor option still allowed room for exercise.

Risco reports that, though respiratory rates and rectal temperatures increased during the warmer times of the day, calves in the polyethylene hutches had fewer health problems and received fewer treatments than calves housed in wire.

Source: Hampel Animal Care