Video: Important factors to consider when it comes to calf accommodation

There are many factors that farmers should consider when it comes to calf accommodation.

These include: ventilation; dryness; draughts; cleanliness; and temperature. If these are correct, farmers should have no problem with calves from a housing point of view.

A calf shed should be stand-alone, located upwind of other cattle housing facilities and at right angles to the prevailing wind.

Thomas and Peter O’Hanrahan – a father-and-son team – who held a recent Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme farm walk built a new calf rearing unit under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) on the farm.

In the video below, Dr. Doreen Corridan from Munster Cattle Breeding Group takes us through the calf unit.

The Yorkshire boarding consists of 6in-wide boards with 2in between them and a 27m-long canopy at the top of the unit.

The four-bay shed – which Peter designed himself – stands at 50ft wide and contains two 20ft-wide pens and a 10ft passage. Yorkshire boarding was installed along both sides of the unit and an outlet is located at the apex; this provides the correct ventilation.

Micro-environments were created inside the pens and these movable features work well with the 7ft walls to prevent draughts. These can be moved via a pulley system to facilitate clean-out.

The floors of the pens are sloped (1:20) to allow run-off to channels, which flow to a slatted tank located close to the shed, while natural light is provided via 16 skylights (four/bay), while artificial lights have also been installed.

“The first thing that strikes me is the actual light in the house; light in a house is very important as you can see issues with the calves.

“Saying that, the most important thing in a house is the temperature – the house needs to be kept above 10°.

“And, how we keep the calf above 10º is to provide a dry lie – so have the calves bedded in straw and having adequate drainage out of the house.

“The water we have to get rid of is the urine from the calf and the washings from the calf feeder. And, we need to make sure water troughs are not leaking,” Doreen added.

Doreen also touched on the need for adequate ventilation, but stressed the importance of reducing draughts.

“The other huge thing for calves is fresh air – fresh air is great for killing bacteria and viruses. Air inlets and outlets are also required. The inlet needs to be two-to-four times the area of the outlet and an outlet of 0.04m²/ calf is desired.

“The other aspect is that it can be cleaned very easily. Calves also need continued access to water – which is very important – and also access to ad-lib concentrates from one-to-two, and both are crucial for getting the rumen going,” she concluded.


According to Teagasc, the minimum permissible pen floor area per calf is 1.5m². However, 1.8m²/calf of pen area and a total floor space of 2.3-2.5m²/calf is recommended.

Source: Teagasc