The first of two webinars as part of CalfCare virtual week took place Monday, January 18. The webinar focused on calf housing and preparing for the calving season.

Speaking at the event Charles Chavasse, area veterinary manager, livestock team with Zoetis, outlined some of the key aspects of a good calf shed, including the use of Yorkshire boarding.

Image source: Teagasc

Yorkshire boarding increases the amount of air that enters the shed; this type of boarding keeps rain out, while also maximising the air in the shed.

Normally, Yorkshire boarding consists of two rows of boards (6in). A 2in gap is left between the boards and the rows are normally 2in apart.

This method allows air to enter through the boarding and exits through an adequate-sized outlet at the apex, bringing any diseases with it.

Also Read: Reviewing the factors to consider in calf housing

Key points

Charles also highlighted the five key areas that farmers need to provide for calves.

  1. The shed should have plenty of fresh air;
  2. There should be no drafts at the calves level;
  3. The bedding should be dry (use the knee test), if your knees are damp or wet clean out the shed or apply new bedding;
  4. The shed should be warm enough for the calves. The ideal temperature range is between 15-20°. During the spring-calving season, these temperatures will not be possible, but ensure calves are as warm as possible;
  5. The shed should be clean, before calves enter the shed. By now calf sheds should have been power washed and limed in preparation for the season ahead. The shed should be cleaned out regularly and fresh bedding applied.

Cleaning the calf shed

Calf sheds should be cleaned out regularly throughout the period that calves are housed. When cleaning out calf sheds many farmers are tempted to wash the floor with a high volume hose, before applying lime.

Charles says to avoid using this practice. “Avoid using water when cleaning out calf sheds, by doing this you’re adding water to the environment.

”Bugs cannot survive in a dry environment; bugs and virus don’t have wings they rely on moisture to survive.”

Charles added: ”Using water to clean the calf shed also reduces the temperature of the shed, making the calves colder.

”Cleaning out all the old bedding and applying a fresh dusting of lime, before adding in fresh bedding is sufficient.”