Lots of Space for Healthy and Active Calves


How much space does a happy calf need? Not only animal welfare activists are concerned with this issue, but everyone interested in calf rearing. In particular for the youngest stock in the operation, "Less is more" is not always the appropriate motto. Here is why!

Offer Your Calves Great Variety

  • Practical experience has demonstrated that it is a good choice to establish a resting, an activity, and a feeding area in the calf pen. This way, resting calves are not disturbed by active calves playing or running around.
  • In most cases, the feeding and drinking area is the one with the highest calf traffic rate, which makes it the dirtiest and dampest one too. Therefore, there should be enough space to avoid the calves' being required to lie down in this area of the pen.

Let the Calf Decide on Its Own

  • The calf decides which area it prefers to be in. Offer it two resting areas to choose from: • one inside the Igloo, in the protected micro-climate;
  • one as a roofed resting and exercise area in front of the Igloo.
  • You will recognise that the preferred resting areas are very different between calves, depending on the weather and their age. Their preferences may change within a couple of hours. The frequent variations are also an indicator that lets you know that in controlled-atmosphere housing, which could be an option, the operator tends to switch too late to the conditions the calves now prefer, and often is wrong at guessing what they like.

Be Very Animal-friendly, Offer Lots of Space

  • Pursuant to European directives for animal protection, a calf, depending on its age, must be allowed 1.5 to 1.8 sq. metres (16¼ to 19½ sq.ft) of space.
  • This required space minimum is too small when you want to offer three areas (see above) for resting and being active. We recommend that you provide 2 to 2.5 sq. metres (21½ to 27 sq.ft) per calf. With an Igloo, this space requirement in most cases is not a problem either because the cost of its construction is low.

Provide Lots of Good Bedding for Maximum Health

  • Good, fresh bedding lowers humidity, decreases bacteria development, and, as a consequence, the ammonia content in the air associated with rotting straw.
  • Furthermore, fresh bedding covers spots of manure as a surface protection, which reduces the calves' exposure to bacteria and decreases the risk of disease.
  • Finally, calves that eat the straw used as bedding can hardly be avoided, even when enough high-quality forage is available for them to eat. Therefore, the bedding has to be "feed grade," of excellent quality.

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