ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It seems many dairy farms are interested in moving from individual hutches to keeping all young calves under one roof. Although this has many benefits from a labor standpoint, there can be some challenges when it comes to ventilation. With undeveloped immune systems, young calves can fall victim to many environmental pathogens. Maintaining consistent airflow through their environment can help reduce the risk. Poor or improper ventilation can lead to many problems, including respiratory disease, reduced feed intake, and long-term effects such as reduced heat tolerance as a cow.
Some important features to keep calf barns well-ventilated and keep the calves healthy are:
* Ensure the air is clean, fresh, and draft-free
* Build the barn on the windward side of the farmstead
* Maintain separation from mature animal housing units
Calves in a barn cannot choose their environment, so it is important to ensure the ventilation is consistent throughout the barn. This is a crucial detail for barns with four or more rows of pens as conditions can vary greatly between inside and outside rows.
The person responsible for taking care of calves should be aware of the variability in naturally ventilated barns and manage for it daily. Research indicates that curtains on naturally ventilated barns may need adjustment as often as 7 to 10 times per day. Maintaining consistency in ventilation will ensure calves have a healthy environment to grow in and help avoid problems as they age.
Keeping baby calves in one barn has been a successful update for many dairy farms, and with the right ventilation and facility design, it could be for your farm, too.
— Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension
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