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Preparing your barns for winter

Calves and heifers have three basic needs: ample supply of draft-free fresh air, a dry comfortable resting area, and sufficient food and water to meet their energy requirements.

As the cold season starts moving in, barns across the country are beginning their winterization preparations. However, it is important that you keep your barns properly ventilated during the cold season.

Keep in mind that it is always better to work with healthy calves rather than sick calves. Therefore, ensuring the health of your calves is a priority. The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards III states that shelter is a critical welfare component for dairy animals of all ages. Because of their stage of physical development, heifers less than 600 pounds need greater protection from weather challenges than larger heifers.

As temperatures in the barn drops, a calf's requirements for energy and protein to sustain growth increases. A good feeding program during these colder months should be established. When it comes to ventilation, knowing the number of calves, their weights and ages will help in determining the type of housing you may need.

Areas to consider:

--Make use of natural air movement with the use of curtains. This may aid in eliminating drafts if a mesh shade is attached to the back of the curtain. The mesh shade with the cloth curtain will allow fresh air to filter in without the draft.

--Ensure fresh air supply with the use of positive pressure duct system. A properly designed system will help in dispersing fresh air without the draft.

--Remember fresh air with no draft is a simple requirement that may prove difficult to accomplish. Ensure that the three basic needs of your calves are met to promote healthy, happy calves.

Date: 12/03/2012



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