Hoard's Dairyman article: Keep calves healthy with proper hutch design and location

calf and heifer

Keep calves healthy with proper hutch design and location

Calves require clean, well-ventilated facilities for optimal growth and performance. Dan McFarland, agricultural engineer at Penn State University, and New York veterinarian Brenda Moslock Carter, give these fundamental rules for calf hutch design and maintenance:

• Provide at least 32 square feet of pen run space and the same amount of bedded shelter space. A 2:1 length to width ratio for the shelter area helps prevent drafts.

• Choose opaque fiberglass or plastic, if possible. Wood harbors disease organisms while translucent or transparent materials allow in too much heat on sunny days.

• Keep feeding area outside so manure and urine do not build up in the bedded area.

• Make the cleaning process easy by using mechanization whenever possible. If cleaning can be mechanized, it will be easier to change bedding on a regular basis.

• Place hutches on a stone surface with good drainage. Also, situate so the back faces the wind. Keep hutches far enough apart to prevent nose-to-nose contact.

• Between calves, remove and replace bedding, and power wash the hutch’s interior with detergent and water. Dry the hutch by tipping up to allow sun exposure. Spray with disinfectant before restocking with another calf. Ideally, hutches should be empty for 10 days between calves.

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