Mkulima today animal housing is a key resource in the success story of any dairy farm. Here we cover how to build calf housing in dairy farming.
The housing of calves is an important aspect of calf management. Claves are housed for several reasons, the most important being protection from adverse weather conditions and predators, avoid internal and external parasites, and control feeding and management.
A calf pen should be constructed where possible from locally available materials. It should be constructed to:
i) allow approximately 2 m2 (1.2 X 1.5m) space per calf
ii) be well-drained or bedded
iii) be well lighted (artificial or natural).
iv) be well-ventilated
v) strong to stand predator invasion.
Calves can be housed permanently indoors until weaning time when they are turned to pasture or semi-indoor where they housed only at night.
The calf house can be permanent or temporary and movable.
Permanent houses should be constructed such that they are easy to clean when a new calf is introduced.
Temporary houses are moved from one location to another when a new calf moves in.
How to build calf housing in dairy farming. A calf house floor can be on ground level or raised. If at ground level, the floor should be made of easily cleanable material (e.g. concrete) and should be bedded using a straw.
The sides can be made of concrete or wooden. The raised pens should have a slatted floor. They are made of timber spaced at 1 inch to allow urine and feces to fall on the ground.
The house should be at least 1 foot from the ground. In big dairies, calves can be housed individually or in groups.
Individual housing is recommended during the first month. When not possible then group housing can be done though there are several disadvantages including:
1. Difficulty in feeding and management.
2. Disease control is difficult.
3. Fights among calves – decreased growth rate.
4. Calves suckling each other which could lead to ingested hair (tend to form hairballs), blind teats, and removal of disinfectant from the umbilical cord.
Raised calf pen:
Suitable for newborn calves. This type of calf pen is suitable for a zero-grazing unit. It is placed inside the roofed and walled section of the unit.
It may be permanent or movable.
Individual pens for calves from birth to 2 to 3 months of age are often built with an
elevated slatted floor.
This floor will ensure that the calf is always dry and clean.
The required minimum internal dimensions for an individual calf pen are 1200 by 800mm for a pen where the calf is kept up to two weeks of age, 1200 by l000mm where the calf is kept to 6 to 8 weeks of age, and 1500 by 1 200mm where the calf is kept from 6 to 14 weeks of age.
Three sides of the pens should be tight to prevent contact with other calves and to prevent draughts.
Draughts through the slatted floor may be prevented by covering the floor with the litter until the calf is at least one month of age.
The front of the pen should be made so that the calf can be fed milk, concentrates, and water easily from buckets or a trough fixed to the outside of the pen and so that the calf can be moved out of the pen without lifting.
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