In this blog, we are looking at calf housing and the season ahead. We hope this information can help you with your preparation and planning for that busy time of year.

When building calf housing there are so many aspects to consider. It is unlike any other shed you will build as it is very much about creating an environment that calves will thrive in. It needs to be draught free and dry with adequate feed and drinking space. Well disinfected from previous use with a clean airflow. Along with all of this it needs to be labour efficient and designed in a way that all these elements work together.

Calf Group Penning

The flooring/bedding needs to facilitate easy cleaning and removal of waste. Waste should not drain away from one pen through another as this can spread disease. A decent fall in the floor is very important as it will keep the bedding as dry as possible. It is important to clean out, wash and disinfect calf houses. This should be done regularly and is essential between batches of calves. Maintaining a clean environment throughout calf rearing greatly reduces disease levels and enhances calf comfort.

Group housing aids the behavioural and social development of calves, increasing their learning ability and allowing them to adapt better to new environments. In addition, group housing of calves soon after birth can increase weight gains and intake of solid feed. Our calf group pens are generally designed with a wet and dry area where it suits. All the dividing gates lock forward for quick cleaning out and rebedding while calves are housed. All our calf gates are height adjustable with stock proof latching. The space required for calves in group pens varies according to their weight. Calves housed in small groups or larger groups require 1.8m2 of pen area and a total floor space of 2.3 to 2.5m2/calf floor area (including the feed passage). The minimum permissible pen floor area per calf is 1.5m2Calf Group Penning

Drinkers are generally positioned between the wet and dry areas so calves always have access to water. This setup also saves on straw with all liquids positioned at the front section of the pen. Automatic calf feeders work very well with this set-up as the wet area helps to keep the feeder clean and easy to wash down if needed. The video below is a good example of our recommended layout.

When it comes to lay back areas we also have the option of plastic slats, reducing labour and cost of bedding while keeping your lie back area consistently dry. These slats are also used in our individual calf pens.

MIK Stepper Sheep Slats

The MIK stepper slat has been specifically designed for calf housing, Sheep, goats and pigs. The knobbed surface ensures high step safety and foot stability. The fact that manure can easily pass through the slots guarantees a clean and dry surface which supports general animal health.

Calf Pens

Our calf pens are quick to assemble and dismantle and fold up neatly for easy storage. They provide superior comfort for the animal and makes it easy to control newborn calves. they also allow for easy access for inspection and care of sick calve.

Our calf feed barriers are designed with an adjustable horizontal bar, all gates are height adjustable and have stock proof latching. The adjustability of our gates is ideal for the growth of calves to maintain a comfortable feeding height. The hangers are also height adjustable to suit 80 x 80mm box poles. Poles can be sleeved so that the shed can be used for other purposes during the year.

Calf feed Trough

The ODEL clip-on feed trough can be attached to these barriers to feed calves and reduce bullying at the trough.

Adequate feeding and drinking space is very important to the development of your calves. The correct feeder and drinking space must be provided to encourage feed and water intake and to discourage bullying. For bucket feeding, calves require 350mm of feed face each. For automatic feeders, there should always be more than one teat per pen. This reduces the risk of calves being without milk and then overfeeding when a teat is fixed. Meal troughs should be around 450mm above the floor.

Earlier this year we did a video with Grasstec on calf housing. Vincent called out to a customer’s shed who has penning from 1997 and new penning from 2018. He talks through the spec and design features along with what we have changed over the years.

Air space is critical. There should be a minimum of 7m3/calf total house cubic air capacity provided per calf at birth, increasing to 10m3 by two months of age.

Here are the building dimensions for effective ventilation. The inlet/outlet size should be 0.08m2 on sheltered sites and 0.05m2 on exposed sites. The outlet should be at least 1.5m above the ventilation inlet. Roof profiles of 1:4 and 1:3 are ideal. There should be 5cm of ridge opening for every 3m of building width. The eight primary functions of ventilation are to:

1. Eliminate noxious gases.

2. Eliminate draughts.

3. Eliminate areas of stagnant air.

4. Maintain optimum ambient temperature.

5. Maintain optimum environmental humidity levels.

6. Decrease airborne dust contamination.

7. Decrease airborne endotoxin levels.

8. Decrease airborne pathogen concentration.

For more information on calf housing and management Teagasc have a great 16-page document on the subject Click Here

Calf Group Penning

Other features that can help with a labour efficient system include:

• Artificial light – 50 lux (about five watts/m2 threshold)

• Natural light – at least 10% of roof area

• An adequately sized feed preparation area

• Separate outside door for quickly cleaning out

• Lockable cabinet for chemical and veterinary products

• Sink and cold water supply, paper towel dispenser

• External access to a grazing paddock for calves

• A calf transporter to move calves, bags of feed, or equipment around the farm quickly & safely

Calf Investment Scheme

At O’Donovan Engineering, our motto is “quality and innovation give us the edge” – and this is the standard we hold ourselves to. We are proud of the fact we manufacture our products in Ireland and that we employ staff from our own community.

O Donovan Engineering is CE Certified to EN 1090 – Execution Class 2 and we working to ISO-9001-2015 standard. The quality and finish of your job are what matters to us and our staff, we have built our name through providing a great service, be it designing custom made products for your needs, solving problems that arise during construction or just good solid advice from our experienced sales team.

We strive to provide uncompromising quality in everything we do. By placing the customer at the core of our business we deliver the perfect solution to suit your needs. For more information visit CALF PRODUCTS or call 021-7334066.