There is no single ‘right’ way to rear calves and no ‘best’ housing system. Good management is essential to the success of any system.
However, badly designed and managed housing systems can definitely pose risks to calf health, welfare and growth rates.
A well-designed housing system — whether it is a set of temporary pens under a hayshed, individual hutches or a purpose-built facility — will minimise these risks and make management easier.
If you are looking at upgrading your calf housing this year, Dairy Australia has some excellent case studies that show a range of calf rearing facilities across a number of farms sizes and locations.
The case studies include photographs, building plans, pen layouts and video interviews with six farmers with their tips for good calf housing.
Housing design is a key component of success in rearing healthy calves and the Dairy Australia resources also include fact sheets that outline planning, costs and other key considerations such as shed capacity, bedding, ventilation and flooring.
Ideal conditions for a young calf:
A dry, healthy calf that is eating normally and not subjected to draughts can comfortably tolerate a temperature range of 0-20°C, but ideally it should be kept around 17°C.
A dry but poorly fed calf will start shivering at 12°C and a poorly fed calf with a wet coat subjected to draughts will start shivering at 19°C.
In hot weather, ensure that calves have sufficient cool, fresh water, shade and ventilation.
■For more information, visit: www.dairyaustralia.com.au/calfhousing