More Rain Means More Calf Bedding

Heins Family Farms in Higginsville, MO ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Mother nature has drenched parts of the country this spring with heavy rainfall saturating the soil. For some dairy producers, this has caused calf bedding to become increasingly damp.

Keeping calves clean and dry is a fundamental part to proper calf management. However, this is easier said than done when elements get nasty. Here are a few items to keep in mind when bedding calves during wet weather:

Bed frequently – The best way to keep calves dry is to provide ample amounts of fresh bedding. Straw is the best choice of bedding for providing insulation to the young calf. However, straw also tends to hold moisture, so it is important to add fresh bedding regularly. 

During the summer months, it may be beneficial to switch over to shavings or wood chips. This bedding material will continue to keep calves cool and dry while also absorbing rainwater and fecal matter.

Monitor moisture - If you kneel with all your weight on your knees in the calf bedding, any moisture on your pants indicates that bedding is too wet. Moisture exceeding 20 percent is too high. If dampness becomes a problem in hutches or group housing, consider starting from fresh by adding a new base layer of gravel, pebbles or sand then accompanying it with unused bedding.

Drainage is key – Keeping water away from calf housing is a great way to prevent excess moisture from building up. If you use hutches, they should be placed on top of gravel or rock to provide drainage under the bedding. Angle housing so that slopes point away from the calves to help steer water in the right direction. In group housing operations, consider adding slatted flooring to help control dampness.

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