Optimising calf housing all year round

Published 25 April 17

Farmers in north east Scotland are being urged to come along to a free on farm meeting to discuss how to ensure their dairy housing offers the best possible environment for young stock all year round.

The event, which will be heldat Mains of Glasgoforest, Kinellar, Aberdeen, AB21 0SH, on Tuesday 16 May, is part of AHDB Dairy’s Calf to Calving Initiative. The project aims to enable dairy farmers to achieve measured improvements in heifer rearing; specifically in calf and heifer survival, growth, health, fertility and age at first calving.

Housing expert David Ball will speak at the event advising farmers on how to ensure their current housing is fit for purpose, considering key issues such as temperature, ventiliation and humidity. He will also emphasise that monitoring conditions is just as vital in summer as in winter.

He says: “While many farmers may be understandably more concerned about the condition of their calf housing in the winter, worried about cold temperatures and wind, I would argue that during the summer they also need to be vigilant.

“As there is such a focus on keeping calves comfortable in the winter months when the summer comes along young stock can end up living in overly warm and humid conditions. Such conditions can not only impact on their growth rates, but can make them more suspectible to diseases.”

On the day farmers will discuss what practical steps they can take to improve their calf housing including temperature regulation, upgrading ventilation systems and how best to avoid disease spikes that often occur when young stock is mixed with older cattle.

A key part of AHDB Dairy’s strategy is accelerating productivity growth, and poor health status reduces productivity, compromises animal welfare, and increases inefficiency.

AHDB Dairy Technical Manager, Andy Dodd, who will also speak at the event, says: “We would always advise farmers to monitor the environmental conditions in their housing whether that is using a thermometer to regularly record the temperature or installing basic equipment which will monitor wind speed and humidity.

“We have found that there is often far more variations than farmers might expect, with warm temperatures during the day which fall significantly overnight. Ideally we need to avoid such extremes and aim for a stable comfortable environment which minimises disease risk and maximises welfare.”

The event will run from 10.45am – 2.30pm with lunch provided. Famers wishing to attend should contact Sharon Lauder at Sharon.lauder@ahdb.org.uk