Are your barn and calves ready for the cold?
With winter moving in, this is the time of the year to check how your calves are adjusting to the cold. Calves that are raised in hutches get all the fresh air they want if they are properly bedded. During winter, most calf barns leave their curtains raised and rely on fans and tubes for air exchanges. Is your current system getting an adequate four air exchanges per hour?
Nutrition and health go hand in hand on the farm. A heifer that has respiratory issues will fall behind on growth due to increased energy demands on her immune system, preventing her from reaching her full genetic potential. Heifers struggling with respiratory concerns early in life will have reduced lifetime milk overall. Heifers are a major investment on the farm between feeding, housing, and overall management, so it is worth investing in a proper ventilation system to ensure excellent respiratory health. Monitoring the current respiratory condition can be performed by scoring lung via ultrasound. Knowing the scores of heifers can assist with culling decisions.
Things to consider when looking at your calf barn ventilation system is first, how old is your system? There have been many changes in the last couple years to improve ventilation based on dimensions of calf facilities. This ranges from fan number, fan size, and tube dimensions when using a positive-pressure system. In any system, hutch or indoor facility, adequate bedding to allow proper calf nesting is critical.
Second, when was the last time you have had your barn fogged? Fogging your barn allows for you and your calf consultant to measure the air exchanges in the facility. By targeting four exchanges an hour, this means when fogged, the whole barn should be cleared in 15 minutes. Additionally, this allows you to see if there are any clogged holes or if fresh air is not getting through the whole tube. Furthermore, we get to see if there are any dead spots, which might cause respiratory problems associated with increased condensation (most likely the corners of the barn).
Effective ventilation systems will help reduce costs and make better replacement heifers for the future. Any questions contact your local United Cooperative nutritionist.