Calves are a precious commodity on the farm. Ensuring that they grow up to be healthy and strong is essential to a successful dairy farm. The following tips can help keep calves comfortable and healthy no matter what time of year.
- Access to Fresh Air – Calves should have ample access to fresh, dry air. Natural, mechanical, or a combination of both types of ventilation should be utilized to help continually bring new air in and move manure gases and stale air out. Keeping calves separated from each other and older cows prevents airborne pathogens from possibly being transmitted, making the calves sick.
- Food and Water – Keep food and water within easy reach of calves. Water should be fresh, clean, and frost free in the winter. It helps to have separation between the food and water dishes, to keep from wasting either via transfer to the wrong container. Containers should be removable, so they are easier to clean and replace. Be sure to have some sort of slope or drainage near the feeding area for runoff.
- Housing – Calves need enough space to move comfortably. Individual pens or hutches should ideally be a minimum of 4’x8’ so there is enough space to have separation between the feeding and resting areas. Calves should initially be kept separate from other calves and older cattle until they have had a chance to grow, and their immune systems have strengthened. After a couple of months, they can move into a larger, group pen to socialize with other calves.
- Bedding – Bedding should be thick enough that calves are not directly on their own waste. Bedding type is dependent on the environment of the surrounding location. For winter, generous amounts of straw should be used. In summer, sawdust may be all that is needed to keep calves happy. It is important to always spot clean out stalls frequently, and clean thoroughly often, leaving time for the stall to sit idle.
- Safe Environment – Both calves and the workers caring for calves should have a safe environment to work and/or live in. Floor surfaces should be clean (or cleaned often) to prevent slips and hoof injuries. The housing area should be well lit so that cattle and people can see where they are going. Calves also need to be protected from the elements. In the winter, they may need additional covers over their stalls and possibly jackets to help regulate body temperature. In the summer, provide extra air circulation, extra water, and shady areas to help keep calves cool.
How Dairy Farmers Care for Calves Dairygood
Creating a Healthy Comfortable Environment for Calves PennState Extension