Autumn Calving is almost upon us. A decision many farmers face during any calving period is the ratio of Group Calving Layouts to Individual Calf Pens. Both are great, both are necessary, and, like anything, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Lets delve a little deeper:


-Individual Calf Pens:

  • These are very good for early calf development as new-borns are not competing with each other for milk. Therefore, you can clearly see if the calf is drinking as much as it should be etc.
  • These pens take the strain out of training new calves to drink. Anybody who’s fed calves knows the hardship of trying to train a new calf to drink whilst getting swarmed by a bunch of hungry calves!
  • However, despite these positives there is the negative aspect of feeding being very time consuming compared to group penning.

-Calf Group Penning:

  • Feeding time is greatly reduced as you are feeding many calves at a time. Usually 10 depending on size of the pen.
  • A must for when calves get to the stage of being fed hay and rations.
  • Gates can be ordered here in horizontal or diagonal bar feed gates to suit customer preference.

Calf Pen


2. Bedding:

-Individual Calf Pens:

  • Cleaning out and re-bedding these is very time consuming as you have to move them all in order to clean under them.
  • Having a hinged front gate provides easy access to the calf. This is beneficial as you will be up close and personal with calves in their first couple of days in order to monitor them and feed them.
  • These pens are quick to assemble and dismantle for easy storage.

-Calf Group Penning:

  • Plastic slats are an ideal solution for lie back area reducing labour and cost of bedding. We recommend these above the treated timber slats as they are very comfortable for the calves.
  • As regards space, each calf will need 1.5m2 for the first 19 weeks. 1.7m2 19-32 weeks. 1.8m2 from week 32 on.
  • Ensure calf penning gates are height adjustable and have stock proof latch, as this will allow them to be used longer. Reducing costs etc.


3. Health:

Individual Calf Pens:

  • Very Hygienic: Reduces the spread of diseases as calves are separated. This is beneficial for the animal as there is increased risk of contracting a disease in the calves early days.
  • Individual calf pens have the option of a plastic slat or a treated timber slat. We recommend the plastic slat as they are more comfortable for the calf, more hygienic and are easier to clean.

-Calf Group Penning:

  • As the calves get older they are at less risk of contracting a disease and spreading it amongst the herd. So having them together in group pens is both safe and hugely efficient (as mentioned in the feeding and bedding sections above).
  • The physical design of the shed should also be considered to ensure a well ventilated building, with minimal draughts. However, good ventilation is also important, as this prevents the build up of air-bourne diseases, reduces the moisture in the air and prevents both irritant gases and smell.



4. Water:

-Individual Calf Pens:

  • Teat feeders and the clip on bucket rings for feeding the calves milk should be utilized here to supply water to the animal on an ad lib basis.

-Calf Group Pens:

  • Water should be available on an ad-lib basis.
  • Water should be available to the animals in a bowl with a reservoir as they will be enticed to drink.



All in all the best calf rearing system would incorporate both of these options. Individual calf pens are undeniably ideal for new born calves. However, as calves progress, group penning makes it easier to manage larger numbers of bigger calves.

Recommended ratio is 10% for individual calf pens, as in if you are calving 100 cows you should have a minimum of 10 individual calf pens.

We here at O’ Donovan Engineering specialise in both new calf houses and conversions of existing buildings. Our in house sales and engineering team will visit your farm to plan out your calving shed and design the most efficient and safe layout to suit your yard, call 021-7334066.