Spacing is critical to successful calf rearing, manual says

By Rodney Woods

When it's time to set up housing as part of your calf rearing practice, spacing of the calves is essential.

That's according to Dairy Australia's Rearing Healthy Calves second edition manual, which says each newborn calf should have a space of at least 1.5 to 2 sq m.

“As calves grow it is recommended to increase the space available (to 2.5 metres squared or greater), particularly if they do not have access to paddocks or yards,” the manual says.

“This allows the calves to rest undisturbed in a clean dry area, significantly improving calf comfort, reducing their stress levels and the risk of disease.

“The more room they have the healthier and happier they will be.”

If you decide to rear your calves in separate pens, the manual says to make sure the calves can see each other.

“Calves in individual pens should be able to see other calves at all times.

“You may not like to see your neighbours every day but calves do.”

To reduce the risk of disease, lengthen the time that some calves exit the pen and others enter.

“Maximising the time the shed or pen is empty between batches of calves will reduce the risk of disease,” the manual says.

“In warm conditions, even an empty period of one to two weeks can result in significant reductions in disease-causing organisms (pathogens), particularly if sunlight hits the area.”

The manual recommends using smaller sheds rather than one large shed.

“This may allow more air space and resting time between groups.

“It also gives you the ability to segregate different classes of calves, for example sick calves, replacement heifers, sale calves.

“The longer the calf rearing area is free of calves and bedding, the fewer pathogens will be present next time around.”