Calf housing management is vital, as calves are susceptible to the chilling effects of wind and rain. For the first three weeks of life, calves should be kept indoors. It’s important that calf housing management is optimised in order to prevent stress and to limit the calf’s susceptibility to disease.
Teagasc has outlined the priority areas for calf housing standards.
- Create a draught free environment.
- Create and maintain a dry bed.
- Adequate manure disposal system.
- Regular house and personnel disinfection.
- Provision of clean air and water.
- Adequate feeding and drinking space.
- Sufficient air space.
- Other services/calf house requirements.
- Labour efficient calf housing.
How to create and maintain a dry bed.
According to Teagasc calves spend up to 80% of their time lying down so the type and depth of bedding used is important. Calves should not be lying directly on concrete as it tends to become wet and slippery and encourages the spread of bacteria throughout the house.
The quality of bedding material is crucial to reduce the amount of heat loss via conduction from lying calves. Deep straw bedding is superior to other bedding material in its efficacy as an insulator. It can provide a high ‘nesting score’ which has a preventive effect against calf respiratory disease in naturally ventilated sheds. Straw bedding should be at least 15cm deep and should remain dry at all times.
Calves require up to 20 kg/head/week of straw bedding in order to maintain dry conditions on concrete floors. Each round 4×4 bales consists of approx 150kg and currently costs approx €35 per bale. This works out at approx .66c per calf per day. This quantity can be halved by using slats under the straw.
Dry looking beds may be wet. To check if beds are adequately bedded and dry, kneel with all your weight on the bedded floor. If the knees of your trousers are wet, the house is not bedded sufficiently.
HOW TO: Choose appropriate bedding for calves
When selecting bedding materials it is important to consider issues like on-going availability, price and the degree to which the material compacts over time. Avoid using dusty bedding as it can cause respiratory problems.
Alternatives to straw bedding
EASYFIX calf slats offer a great alternative to straw bedding. The treated timber has a soft rubber covering that creates a dry comfortable lying surface for young calves. The calf slats are elevated 38mm from the floor and are portable, easy-to-store and reusable.
EASYFIX calf slats measure approx 2.2 square metres and cost €135 per slat. Based on a stocking ratio of 1.5 sqm that works out at €112 per calf, with a payback of 200 days. Each calf slat carries a warranty of 5 years with an expected lifespan of up to 10 years.
There are two sizes of calf slats now available 1,730mm x 1,280mm x 135mm (h) and 1,800mm x 1,130mm x 135mm (h)
|Rubber calf slats
||Rubber calf slats are elevated 38mm from the floor and provide a comfortable, dry lying surface. It’s recommended to use a light covering of straw for additional comfort.
||Using straw or hay as a bedding should be avoided if it is also supplied as a dietary fibre source. Calves may consume contaminated bedding and increase their exposure to pathogens.
|Yes if untreated
||Treated shavings should not be used.
||Wood chips, tan bark and post peelings are absorbent bedding materials with good insulating properties and low palatability to calves.
||Large wood shaving are more suitable than small fine particles.
||Sand does not provide any insulating properties and has poor absorbing ability.
For further details on calf housing management and EASYFIX Calf Slat get in contact