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Thread: Calf rearing/housing

  1. #1
    BewareoftheBull
    Guest

    Calf rearing/housing

    Whats everyones opinions on different calf rearing sytems?

    What kind of system is most cost effective and delivers the best results?
    How does everyone rear there calves?(up to 12 weeks)( pictures of calf sheds apreciated)

    We currently bucket feed our calves twice a day and keep them in individual (6x6ft) pens until 7-8 weeks of age. Then they get batched upto 12 weeks and then out to grass or into miniature cubicles.

    All calves bar bulls, are fed powdered milk through a wydale milk mixer trolley and ad lib calf starter pellets. In my view our calves do very well at the moment but it is very labour intensive

    Reason i'm asking is because, our current byre (calf shed) is where the proposed new parlour is going to be and so will have to be demolished. Its also on its last legs so its at the stage if we don't do something in the next while regarding new calf shed, we will have to fix the roof costing extra money.

  2. #2
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Large open span shed as tall as practical, batch calves into groups of similar sizes, say 12-20 animals. Fed by milk machine. Job done.

    Can use big bales, hurdles, gates etc as pen divisions.

    Either that or hang a big blue barrel from the ceiling, drill holes and put 20 odd teats into it, dump milk into it daily.

    When that batch is weaned off, remove pen divisions, burn the bales or spray gates etc liberally with disinfectant. Tractor/skid steer/YTS student to clean out bedding. Apply lime, liberally. Leave to dry out.

  3. #3
    cowfarm
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    I went from calf hutches to a computerised feeder,I'm now back on the hutches! computer feeder was a disaster!!!
    I've sacrificed extra labour for the calves to do well again.

  4. #4
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Individual calf penning is a waste of time and not conductive to welfare as it causes stress.

    People allowing calves to drink directly from buckets should be shot as they are invariably causing digestive upset/scours and the odd case of bloat.

    Grouping of calves according to age and size is better for them as they are automatically less stressed. Animals that are showing symptoms of illness would be taken and isolated immediately.

    What requires labour is buggering about with those daft blue buckets and veal crates.

    Come the summer months, provided they have shelter, I would keep as many calves as possible outdoors and feed them from one of those quad bike milk trailer things. Poor ventilation, drainage and bad hygiene is what kills calves.

    I would recommend you go to a nearby farm that are doing it and getting the kind of results you want. Then copy them. I am sure there are some top calf rearers reading this thread, I've probably been on some of their units.

    I went to the Cogent centre ears ago and they had a guy who was a consultant for their calf units, he said that if you can ever enter a livestock building and smell ammonia, urine or sh1t you have a ventilation problem.

    So long as calves are kept dry they will withstand most temperatures, they were after all, designed to be born outside.

  5. #5
    Enry
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by cowfarm View Post
    I went from calf hutches to a computerised feeder,I'm now back on the hutches! computer feeder was a disaster!!!
    I've sacrificed extra labour for the calves to do well again.
    Hutches all the way....more day to day work but strong fit and healthy calves. Machines are coming out left right and centre, reliability and disease issues.... 20 calves, perhaps 20 days apart in age, one pen, one teat.....would you let your baby share a bottle with 20 other random babies!! I have visited several units around here on hutch systems and spoke to vet and I think its the way ahead.

  6. #6
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by protherofitzgibbon View Post
    Bedding calves down is a far better use of time than reading your bullshit posts!!!
    Yawn... bring on your peer reviewed studies then...

    One teat feeding several calves is hardly going to make any difference if they are in a pen together anyway, as we know calves will lick, suck and chew anything they can. And if they are sharing the same airspace, they are going to be exposed to the same diseases anyway.

  7. #7
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by protherofitzgibbon View Post
    But mine are real life!
    not the view of a feed mill broom attendant!
    Yawn... Keep trying.... Thats poor even for you. Real life indeed.

  8. #8
    Poorbuthappy
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    I agree with Mayo on keeping them outdoors in summer - but would not use 1 of those bike feeders that feeds about 50 if you gave it to me.
    Might be alright for you dairy guys who want to allow 'survival of the fittest' to dictate which calves make it into the herd. But I want every beef calf I rear to get his fair share of milk. I use the dairy spares milk bar with 5 teats and 5 compartments - and from that I know some calves would barely get half their share if on a shared supply of milk.
    So calf hutches or igloos would get my vote, with 5 in a group.
    Outdoors in grass paddocks in summer, or in winter the system shown in a link awhile back where igloos were placed around the outside of a shed running into pens inside looked good.

  9. #9
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Without question if an animal is clearly not getting enough milk he'll have to be drawn out or put into a younger group or on his own or something. I'm not into this 'thrive or die' thing and did not mean to appear to suggest it.

    Those igloos, are they very expensive per m2 of space? An open span shed would not be much more money surely, bonus being able to use it for other things during the summer?

    Farm I saw using that trailer thing had a dump line from the parlour running right into it, ultimate lazy barsteward device in my book.

  10. #10
    tanker
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    To throw my hat into the ring,regardless of the accommodation set-up,(which is something we have to improve once we get our milking parlour work done) from a feed standpoint making our own yoghurt for calves is one of the best things we've done.Especially so for ad lib systems where you just pour some into a barrel with some teats on and let them get on with it.They'll drink plenty and you need good drainage but it'll put real bloom and condition on calves.

  11. #11
    endofroad
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayo View Post
    Individual calf penning is a waste of time and not conductive to welfare as it causes stress.

    People allowing calves to drink directly from buckets should be shot as they are invariably causing digestive upset/scours and the odd case of bloat.
    That just has to be the biggest load of drivel i have ever read, i've reared calves that way for over 20 years and never suffered unduly from scours or anything else.

  12. #12
    Enry
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayo View Post
    Yawn... bring on your peer reviewed studies then...

    One teat feeding several calves is hardly going to make any difference if they are in a pen together anyway, as we know calves will lick, suck and chew anything they can. And if they are sharing the same airspace, they are going to be exposed to the same diseases anyway.

    so....how about keeping them apart so they dont lick each other, and have their own air space but can see all that goes on around.....a bingo HUTCHES

  13. #13
    sparkymark
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    My calves are penned individually and fed using teat buckets. But if i were going to spend money on new calf housing, i would go for hutches.
    I saw a farm in Holland recently that kept there hutches on a gravel pad with an economical pollytunnel over the top to keep the calf feeding a pleasant job in bad weather.
    I think calves are best kept individually in the first weeks of life so you can pick up on any problems sooner and reduce any disease spread.

  14. #14
    Creedmoor1
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by endofroad View Post
    That just has to be the biggest load of drivel i have ever read, i've reared calves that way for over 20 years and never suffered unduly from scours or anything else.
    So what do you regard as "unduly" then? When a calf sucks from a teat at the right height, it shuts off the oesophageal groove so that milk goes straight to the abomasum, completely bypassing the rumen. This is how milk is supposed to be digested. Slurped from a bucket goes to the rumen, greatly increasing health risks.

  15. #15
    Tomo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Anyone read/see the article in British Dairying on the unit rearing in hutches on the outdoor pad..Very smart setup geared towards bio-security.
    But was it over the top or a thing of the future.

  16. #16
    BigW
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    I think there would be a fair chance of hutches blowing away in kintyre! We rear calves on a volac machine and cant speak highly enough of the machine and the service, i certainly wouldn't like to go back to individual calf pens.

  17. #17
    830profistar
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    sorry to pee on you lots parade, but the hutch idea although a great thing in some areas, i dont see it ever working up here. 90% of farms are far too exposed. youd be done for cruelty if you put calves outside far any morte than 2 months of the year.

    if i had my way, we would have calves in loose pens of 8 or so, fed in one of these troughs with the teats.
    dont know if youve seen our calve shed bull, havnt seen yours, but sounds similar.

  18. #18
    sirbillyofweobley
    Guest

    Smile Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Hutches are great if you've got a good free draining site as per the one in last British Dairying or another recent one in FG in Warwickshire (Martin Beaumont). Doesn't have to be labour intensive if you get a milk taxi or the like where you can feed 50 calves in no time at a consistent temperature and strength. Am sure hutches and igloos are healthiest option whatever the weather conditions.
    Igloos are expensive but cheapest per calf housed.
    Feeding systems depend on your circumstances. Whatever system getting large dose of green colostrum into calves asap after born ESSENTIAL.
    Once a day ok to save labour but more feed used and not nearest to nature. Twice/day better if labour no issue. Computerised machine definitely best for large numbers of calves. Can target different growth curves, identify poorly calves earlier, wean earlier. Know of one guy on H & L machine on accelerated feeding curve got holstein heifers to 400kgs at 11 months. Now come on, are these ready for bulling or what? Plenty of heifers in the States being bulled at 13m and calving at 22m with big lifetime yields.
    Good to see a lot more interest in calf and heifer rearing.

  19. #19
    sirbillyofweobley
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomo View Post
    Anyone read/see the article in British Dairying on the unit rearing in hutches on the outdoor pad..Very smart setup geared towards bio-security.
    But was it over the top or a thing of the future.
    Don't think that was over the top, think that approach will become norm in future with transparency etc

  20. #20
    BewareoftheBull
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    We used to keep calves in hutches before we moved here, and sure it was a great way of rearing them. We had them setup on top of an outdoor slurry tank so had top notch drainage. But they did blow away from time to time leaving the calf cold and wet. With high winds of up to 100mph this year, hutches arn't an option here.

    I'm thinking on just firing up a cheap 60 by 30ft kit building initially and working from there, i'm not sure what way to go but i'm quite liking the idea of having 12 10by10ft pens with 4-5 calves in each. This would allow room for a 10ft passage up the middle for straw, meal etc

  21. #21
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by endofroad View Post
    That just has to be the biggest load of drivel i have ever read, i've reared calves that way for over 20 years and never suffered unduly from scours or anything else.
    'I've been doing this 20 year no need to change now boy!'

    Get with the program man, this has all been confirmed by a list of studies as long as my arm!

    Why do you think they do what they do on the continent? For the sake of it?

    Too many people seem to think calves needs to be housed like battery hens!

    Single pen rearing is a waste of time and causes stress. In fact, I dare say keeping animals on their own with no tactile contact from their own kind is borderline legal!!

    Calf crates= good for keeping veal in some dingy, dark, fcuk hole of a building.

  22. #22
    sirbillyofweobley
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by sirbillyofweobley View Post
    Hutches are great if you've got a good free draining site as per the one in last British Dairying or another recent one in FG in Warwickshire (Martin Beaumont). Doesn't have to be labour intensive if you get a milk taxi or the like where you can feed 50 calves in no time at a consistent temperature and strength. Am sure hutches and igloos are healthiest option whatever the weather conditions.
    Igloos are expensive but cheapest per calf housed.
    Feeding systems depend on your circumstances. Whatever system getting large dose of green colostrum into calves asap after born ESSENTIAL.
    Once a day ok to save labour but more feed used and not nearest to nature. Twice/day better if labour no issue. Computerised machine definitely best for large numbers of calves. Can target different growth curves, identify poorly calves earlier, wean earlier. Know of one guy on H & L machine on accelerated feeding curve got holstein heifers to 400kgs at 11 months. Now come on, are these ready for bulling or what? Plenty of heifers in the States being bulled at 13m and calving at 22m with big lifetime yields.
    Good to see a lot more interest in calf and heifer rearing.
    Pics as requested

  23. #23
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by Enry View Post
    so....how about keeping them apart so they dont lick each other, and have their own air space but can see all that goes on around.....a bingo HUTCHES
    How much commission are you on from JFC man!!

    I've nothing against hutches, honest!

  24. #24
    Steakeater
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayo View Post
    'I've been doing this 20 year no need to change now boy!'

    Get with the program man, this has all been confirmed by a list of studies as long as my arm!

    Why do you think they do what they do on the continent? For the sake of it?

    Too many people seem to think calves needs to be housed like battery hens!

    Single pen rearing is a waste of time and causes stress. In fact, I dare say keeping animals on their own with no tactile contact from their own kind is borderline legal!!

    Calf crates= good for keeping veal in some dingy, dark, fcuk hole of a building.
    I have to agree with Mayo wholeheartedly on this one! Too many farmers are stuck in their way! If all of humanity took this attitude we would still be in the stone age!

    My Grandad and Dad always raised calves in stalls on their own and fed twice a day. I then bought some of those big feeders with teats and grouped the calves, fed them once a day alongside ad lib meal in either straw bedded shed and from march till November outside in a paddock. Both of them said it wouldn't work, but both of them were so shocked at how healthy the calves were and also how simple and easy it was!!

    We had 100 calves in 12 weeks last spring and we didn't lose one at all (apart from 2 that were born dead). In addition, we only had 2 cases of scour which a few pink tablets sorted out and zero cases of pneumonia!

    Meanwhile all the neighbours who are cleaning out pens all the time, feeding calves individually, feeding medicated milk powder and losing calves! If they only opened their eyes and thought of a better way of doing it!

    Im not saying this is the best way, but it is certainly better than calves gulping at buckets! In addition, you don't have to teach calves to drink, much easier to get them on the teat.

  25. #25
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    I am at a loss to understand why anyone persists with those stupid blue buckets and those veal crates held together with string.

    Seriously. Its established fact calves do better when sucking from teats, as it stimulates esophageal groove closure, which stops milk ending up in the rumen. Furthermore, the milk has to be consumed much more steadily.

    There are also those folk who quite happily declare they have saved a huge amount of money on a pallet of calf grub. Whoopie sh1t! Seriously, why do you think one powder is cheaper than another? At the end of the day milk proteins are hellish expensive as anyone who buys these protein health supplements will attest to.

    The only way you can physically make milk replacer cheaper is by putting veg protein in it- IE Soya, which is of no use to the calf since its fact calves cannot digest veg proteins in early in life- hence why calves would usually get pot bellied when fed hay.

    The best calf rearers consistently use a good powder and feed plenty of it, IE more than a bag per calf over the period. They also wean later and at better weights, how else can you expect to bull a 12-14 month old animal and have it go on to do 100 tonnes or something? The cost saving per calf when using a cheap powder is absolutely f$*k all. By the time a couple exra have died or required medicated feed etc, you've scuppered your savings.

    I've had to work on a unit like this, where calves were kept in a house I wouldn't keep my chickens in. It was grim, dark and minging. A depressing hole of a place which neither man or beast profited from. The only way you were ever going to improve things was by burning the barsteward down. all my protests to the contrary and any suggestions were halted by 'my grandfather did this' type bullsh1t.

    As a young nipper in college they put about a dozen calves in an open fronted shed, huge gert blue barrels from the ceiling with 20 odd teats attached and poured a shit load in there twice a day, including raw milk if needs be. Piece of cake. 100 calves fed in under 20 minutes. A bit of straw thrown around, replace meal and water, job done. Simples!

  26. #26
    Mayo
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    I'd be much obliged if someone would post a picture of their calf unit as I describe so people know what the heck I am on about. I get the impression I might as well be talking about a new Mars colony or some other far fetched idea.

  27. #27
    Friesian
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    Here are 2 pictures of our calf rearing shed. And we do use these pesky blue buckets, for water and meal. This year I have experimented with a 2 teat bucket on some calves and milk drunk from the bucket on other calves. From birth to weaning. To be honest I have not seen any real differance in calf performance and find the buckets easier to clean and disinfect after each feeding. We have gone through a lot of teats mind. I found the teats started to leak quite quickly. This year we have started using powder milk, and this I think has cut our scour problem to nothing, and you can feed lots of it as mayo said. Where as trying to increase whole milk would result in nutritional scours, and off meal for a few days.

  28. #28
    tanker
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    That's the beauty of turning whole milk to yoghurt, feed as much as they can take and no nutritional scours..

  29. #29
    BewareoftheBull
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    We currently have very few scours here, we routinely feed medicated milk powder and have done for the last few years, can't remember the last time we had a case of pneumonia, not with calves anyway, had a jersey in milk heifer take it though. As far as i'm concerned we run a good system at the moment bucket feeding and get good results, the only problem we seem to encounter is the odd case of bloat, maybe 5 in the last year(190 calves), but then as i say the calf shed has to move so wandering whats the best way of doing it. Not keen on teat buckets from a hygiene point of view as its the GFW who feeds them and he wouldn't bother his arse washing it thoroughly everyday.

  30. #30
    heiniger
    Guest

    Re: Calf rearing/housing

    heres a picture of our starter pens, I altered it from 100% single pens to pens of five, just use single pens for colostrum. Also made gated yards the same size outside the shed and the calves go out all day then come in at night.

    huge improvements in calf health pneumonia and scours

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