Your vet can help with new calf house decisions
As I travel around this year, I see a lot of things I didn’t see before.
Earlier in the spring, I was called out to calvings that I thought were within the capabilities of the clients. I mentioned this to colleagues, and we formed the opinion that clients are not getting younger, and are basically spun out from work. Herds have increased, but the same cannot be said of the staff working on these farms. There is now more work to be done by the same personnel. One man or woman who used to calve down 120 cows is now trying to calve down 180 cows, and is definitely going to get tired much faster.
Up to 50% more interrupted sleep to check on cows calving takes its toll.
When you are tired, your decision making is affected, and you are more inclined to cut corners, often with detrimental results.
That decision making includes new calf sheds. The housing some of our clients had was inadequate, and with increasing calf numbers, they have decided to bite the bullet and do a proper job.
I would urge anyone making this move to first have a chat with your veterinary surgeon, regarding basic requirements in a calf house.
Having obtained the fundamental plan for a new calf house, go to your engineer to draw up plans for planning permission etc.
Don’t let yourself be sidetracked from basic non-negotiable calf house requirements, when drawing up plans. Calves need a well-ventilated house which is draught-free and provides a certain level of warmth.
The floors need to be sloped sufficiently to keep the bedding dry, and the house must be easy to clean out.
There are basic space requirements per calf, from the minimum to the optimum. The optimum means the amount of space in which a calf will have the best chance of thriving. The current TAMS grant scheme has brought home to me how many calf houses have only the minimum requirement for calf space. There are minimum and optimum requirements for ventilation as well. First, look at your outlet for air, generally in the roof ridge. The opening must be sufficient for the number of calves you plan to house. Then, to have an air flow, you need an inlet area (usually at both sides) that is equal to at least twice the outlet, but optimally, four times the outlet. Problems arise with the materials used to sheet the inlet areas. Most modern sheds seem to have vented sheeting on the side walls, and most of the time, the client has to open the doors in order to create some sort of an air flow. This is because vented sheeting allows a 4% opening. If you have a 60ft-long shed that is sheeted from 5ft off the ground to a 15ft eave, the area being sheeted along that side of the shed is 600 square feet.
The actual opening that you get with this vented sheeting is only 24sq ft. If you have the same on the other side, you end up with 48sq ft.
That gives the minimum ventilation needed for only 55 calves, and the optimum ventilation for only 27 calves. Food for thought!