Facility Focus: The 5 Things to Look for in Calf Facilities

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No two calf facilities are alike. Its variations can range from size to shape.
It is crucial to customize your facilities because what works for one producer might not be enough for another. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Such customization must take into account particular demands and requirements.
However, it's not all about customization. There are certain factors to take into account when building or remodeling a calf facility. In fact, there are five of these.            

Proper ventilation

A lack of proper airflow can have serious consequences. That is why ventilation is a critical aspect of a calf's environment. Do you know that a poorly ventilated facility can adversely affect the calf's respiratory system? Aside from that, it can result in lesser food intake and stunted growth rates. This will have long-lasting impacts on health. Thus, ensuring appropriate ventilation is paramount.
The purpose of ventilation is to properly circulate fresh air at the calf's level throughout the housing facility. This is true for either mechanical or natural ventilation, according to Curt Gooch, a senior extension associate at Cornell University. He also emphasizes that "all calves should receive an adequate quantity of fresh air free from draughts." To provide a stable and healthy climate, this entails using the ambient outside air as the source of fresh air and evenly spreading it in the barn.

Calf comfort

While cow comfort frequently makes the headlines, the comfort of calves must not be overlooked. Jim Salfer, an extension educator at the University of Minnesota, highlights that the key to keeping calves content lies in their bedding.
Salfer notes, "Bedding isn't just an afterthought; it's central to calf comfort. It is important, especially in the early pre-weaning phase. A sufficiently dry, fluffy bedding offers multiple benefits. For one, it offers a soft resting area. It also assists in keeping the calves clean, lowers the risk of sickness, absorbs moisture, and lessens stress."

Weather protection

Raising calves means defending them against Mother Nature's whims. Young stock must be protected from harsh weather conditions like intense cold, heat, wind, or humidity. These elements present difficulties not only for the calves but also for those who care for them. Gooch states that managing the calf's environment is one of the biggest challenges with any housing system. Moreover, the calf caretaker is responsible for modifying the housing unit's ventilation system.

Safety and cleanliness

Whatever housing system you lean towards for your calves, maintaining cleanliness is non-negotiable. Salfer, an expert in the field, emphasizes the significance of a sanitary environment. He says, "The fewer pathogens in a calf's living space, the better they fare." When calves are subjected to muddy, hot, or germ-ridden conditions, they waste precious energy battling these challenges. On the contrary, in a clean environment, this energy gets channeled into their growth and development. Clearly, a clean habitat is not just about aesthetics—it's about ensuring the best conditions for your calves' well-being and development.


Efficiency is key in any workspace. When it comes to calf care, it not only simplifies the process but can also boost the morale of employees. In addition, you should carefully evaluate your facility's design to ensure it meets your specific needs.
Curt Gooch puts it into perspective. He believes that labor efficiency cannot be overlooked when it comes to pre-weaned calf housing facilities. Raising dairy replacements accounts for 15% to 20% of the total farming costs, and labor is the second-largest expense for the overall heifer enterprise. He also emphasizes maximizing labor efficiency in housing facilities for pre-weaned calves. However, this should never be at the cost of the animal's health or performance.
The focus on labor efficiency goes beyond simple cost-saving; it's about creating a harmonious workflow. In essence, it's a balanced approach that serves both the animals and the people involved.

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