ST. CLOUD, Minn. — On many dairy farms, raising pre-weaned calves under one roof is becoming more and more popular. Although it 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.
There are some important features to keep calf barns well-ventilated and keep calves healthy:
* Ensure 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 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 it on a daily basis. 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.
— Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension
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