Creating a cow-centered facility
A good calf and heifer housing facility provides well-grown replacement animals ready to enter the milking herd at 24 months of age. With this in mind, when designing a cow-centered facility, proper housing should be a priority.
According to Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards, proper calf and heifer housing should:
--Produce replacement heifers that are ready to breed at 13 to 15 months of age;
--Provide comfortable, healthy environment for calves and heifers; and
--Provide a convenient working environment for the operators;
If your facility accommodates non-uniform calving rates, you should be prepared to adjust according to the animals' needs based on age, weight, health and management.
Having a flexible housing system that will support changing needs in management, housing, feeding and overall care is a must.
Maternity pen should be separate from other animals; kept clean and well bedded; have skid resistant floors; be a minimum of 12 feet by 12 feet in size; have a stanchion to restrain the animal; and have clean drinking water available.
Group housing for calves 0 to 2 months should be separated from older animals and kept in a dry and draft-free living space.
Calves 2 to 4 months may be housed in large group hutches in a group of three to five calves.
Heifers 5 months to calving may be dictated by the increased space needed as the animal gets older, changes in rations, herd health, breeding and observation.
Other housing options may include calf hutches, inside pens, and weaning pens.
DCHA Gold Standards III also states that calf housing should be constructed of materials that promotes optimal hygiene and should be cleaned regularly.