Pamper Those Babies: Create a productive environment for calves

February 3, 2009 11:56 AM
Make sure calves aren't exposed to poor air quality, extreme cold or heat and air drafts. Consider putting hutches in buildings.

Offer your calves an environment they can thrive in, says Dan McFarland, a senior Extension educator with Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension. That means:

  • Isolate calves from the mature animals in the dairy.
  • Prevent calf-to-calf contact.
  • Provide individual pens to minimize disease transmission. Wire pens situated close together offer little protection from drafts or other calves.
  • Provide each calf with a dry, comfortable area. McFarland recom-mends a pen size of at least 4'x8', though he adds that 4'x12' pens can lead to cleaner conditions. Provide a generous bedding layer that allows calves to nestle deeply enough so that their legs don't show when they are lying down. Straw is a good option for cold weather. Sawdust works well in warm temperatures.
  • To reduce pathogen transmission between animals, clean pens or hutches and let them sit idle for seven to 14 days between calf occupancies.
  • Locate feed containers away from the calf's resting area and at a convenient 12" to 18" height.
  • Clean and sanitize the calves' feed containers regularly. Avoid using fixed containers that can't be removed for easy cleaning.
  • Provide your calves' caregivers with ample opportunity to perform their necessary tasks.

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