Dan McFarland sometimes refers to dairy heifers between weaning and six months of age as “tweeners.” Heifers at this in-between age are learning to transition from individual housing to a group environment, says McFarland, an agricultural engineer with Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Special attention to several factors, including the housing environment, can help prevent “tweeners” from slipping backward in health and performance at this critical stage of development. Proper maintenance of resting areas during cold weather is especially important because young heifers, unlike their older peers, need more protection to retain body heat, McFarland says. Use these practices to help young heifers stay warm:
- Provide a generous amount of bedding, which allows heifers to burrow in and create a nest.
- Consider using bedding materials like straw that help trap body heat.
- Maintain a pen depth of at least 10 to 20 feet in open-front shelters so that heifers can escape to the back of the pen and avoid drafts.
- Completely remove old bedding, rather than just adding fresh bedding on top of it.
- Keep pens clean and well-drained so they don’t collect moisture.
- Provide 30 to 40 square feet of bedded resting area per head.
DCHA’s Gold Standards provide target housing standards for “tweeners,” Holstein calves, from birth to six months of age, across the United States. View the Gold Standards.