Your vet can help with new calf house de­ci­sions

Irish Examiner - Farming - - DAIRY SECTOR - Paul Red­mond, MVB, MRCVS, Cert DHH, Dun­ta­hane Vet­eri­nary Clinic, Fer­moy, mem­ber prac­tice of Prime Health Vets

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!

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