Housing and health management of heifers in dairy farming

Animal housing is one of the key factors to ensure success on the farm. With quality housing, the dairy farm will be cushioned from several factors such as harsh climatic conditions as well as biosecurity and ease of management.

With quality housing, you can easily  manage the health of your animals and ensure quality production on your farm as well as run a profitable farm.

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Housing

When considering housing for heifers, the following factors need to be considered:

• Convenience of feeding:

Feeding from outside the house is desirable as it minimizes stress and the risk of injuries.

• Cleanliness of the sleeping area:

It should be easy to remove bedding or clean the sleeping area.

• Convenience of moving and restraining animals:

Heifers go through management practices such as vaccination, dehorning, deworming, weighing, artificial insemination and they require restraint.

The housing facility should meet the animal’s requirements but also make it easy to handle them.

Development

From weaning to five months, the young heifers may be housed in small groups of four to five.

However, the house should be sheltered, clean, have dry bedding, good ventilation, and easy access to water and feed.

For zero-grazing systems, the heifers may be housed in the same unit with the mature cows, but in a separate cubical fitted with a feed and water trough.

If they are to be housed in a separate unit, a free stall may be used but it should include outside lots for exercise and feeding.

From the sixth month, heifers may be kept in paddocks in the pastures but watched regularly.

Shelter and the fenced areas must be constructed to ease animal handling and restraint but the degree of protection needed will depend on weather conditions.

Facilities for feeding supplemental feeds and minerals must also be provided.

Health management

Raising healthy heifers is important in all dairy production systems as health affects growth rate, fertility, and hence age at first calving and milk production.

Losses are also incurred in form of veterinary costs and death limiting the opportunity for selection of high-quality animals and or sales.

Most of the common diseases affecting calves are also important in heifer rearing and have been dealt with in the previous chapter.

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