Housing systems: unweaned calves

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Source: National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 1.1.1

There are distinct advantages to housing unweaned calves in either individual pens, calf hutches, or in small groups. Most of the problems that affect calves in the first few weeks of life are associated with infectious agents or nutrition. However, individual housing may place limits on a calf’s opportunity for exercise and social contact.

REQUIREMENTS

Calves must have a bed that provides comfort, insulation, warmth, dryness and traction. Bare concrete is not acceptable as a resting surface.

Housing must allow calves to easily stand up, lie down, turn around, adopt normal resting postures, and have visual contact with other calves.

The bedded area for group-housed calves must be large enough to allow all calves to rest comfortably at the same time.

RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICES

  1. house unweaned calves individually or in well managed groups of less than 10 calves (9)
  2. provide bedding suitable for the housing system and seasonal conditions (e.g., straw offers more insulation than shavings for housing during cold months)
  3. provide calves with an opportunity to exercise and engage in normal social behavior
  4. position hutches to minimize environmental impacts (e.g., out of the wind, facing south, shaded areas).