More attention for calf housing

29 March 2021

In recent years, more and more attention has been paid to how calves are fed. This is not surprising, considering that the care given to young calves will determine their performance as dairy cows in the future. Research has shown that intensive rearing of heifer calves improves their performance as dairy cows later in life. In light of this, it is a shame that suboptimal housing still hampers the genetic growth potential of calves on many farms.

What are we doing wrong when it comes to calf housing? Ensuring a clean, dry, and well-ventilated environment is the mainstay of good calf housing. This means that the infection rate must be kept to a minimum. Every avoidable infection takes its toll on young calves’ immune systems and has a negative effect on the young animals’ growth and development. These effects often go unnoticed, as the animal is not visibly ill. Good-quality housing and an appropriate hygiene protocol can prevent these avoidable infections and lower growth rates.

Where to house calves
The most basic method of ensuring good-quality calf housing is to look at the farm itself. Preferably, young calves should not be housed in the same area as older calves or dairy cows, so as to prevent the transmission of germs from older to younger animals. Another point of attention is how calf housing is cleaned and disinfected. Purchasing easy-to-clean boxes that are left empty for a while after cleaning ensures the very best results. This is easiest to achieve when calves are housed outside in igloos.

This spring, vet Niels Groot Nibbelink from Veterinair Centrum Someren and Alana van Hees, a student at HAS University of Applied Sciences, conducted research on behalf of VDK Products into the cleaning and disinfecting of calf housing. The research revealed that calf housing is only truly ‘clean’ when both cleaned and disinfected. Read more about this research here.


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