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Calf housing and health

calf pensCalf housing
Calves are either housed in groups or reared in individual pens to weaning, and bedded on straw. The individual pens comply with all the recognized welfare codes in terms of dimensions, with calves having visual and tactile contact with other calves. Individual pens are the preferred option by most stockmen since this allows for individual care and attention to the calf. Group housing systems are usually based on feeding the calves with a computerized automated milk dispenser that can regulate and monitor the amount of milk a calf drinks.

lose housing of calvesCalf houses are designed to be well-ventilated that provide adequate air space and change but do not expose the calf to draughts. Calves are remarkably tolerant of cold temperatures and can withstand temperatures as low as 0oC as long as they are not in a draught. Providing adequate ventilation helps to prevent problems such as pneumonia and a good indication that there is adequate ventilation in a calf house is an absence of cobwebs!

dehorning a young calfCalf health
Ensuring that the calf gets a good drink of colostrum within 6 hours of birth helps to significantly minimise health problems. Treating the navel at birth with iodine also prevents problems such as joint ill. Usual routine procedures for calves will include dehorning the calf at about 5 weeks old, unless of course the calf is sired by a breed such as the Aberdeen Angus which is naturally polled (doesn’t have horns).

Dehorning prevents subsequent injury problems to other stock and is done using local anesthetic (just like having a tooth out!). The majority of male beef calves are reared on extensive beef production systems and therefore have to be castrated (a field full of 2 year old bulls would be extremely difficult to manage and not welcomed by ramblers!). Castration reduces the production of natural male growth hormones and is done usually by 1 month of age, along with any vaccinations deemed necessary by the farms veterinary surgeon.

Feeding adequate colostrum and providing a dry, well-bedded, spacious, adequately ventilated and draught free environment – along with plenty of TLC - keeps health problems to an absolute minimum.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Harper Adams University College in the production of this article.

Statistics for Dairy Cows

Dairy Cows
Dairy cows
2 336 2 251 2 227 2 191 2 129 1 998 1 979 1 954 1 909 1 857 1 847
Dairy cows - holdings
29.7 26.6 24.6 28.1 26.8 23.7
Dairy exports
(£ million nominal prices)
654.5 612.2 619.3 760.5 782.2 720.4 787.8 807.6 872.4 836.6
Dairy imports
(£ million nominal prices)
1189.6 1279.1 1324.6 1538.4 1652.7 1746.8 2019.2 1872.5 2290.3 2348.2
Balance of trade dairy
(£ million nominal prices)
-535.1 -666.9 -705.3 -777.9 -870.5 -1026.4 -1135.7 -1064.9 -1425.2 -1511.6

June Census statistics for Dairy Cows

Dairy Cows
Dairy Cows & heifers in milk or calf
1,899,623 2,054,340 1,806,499 2,337,806 2,809,163 3,157,087 3,236,846 3,424,004 3,457,035 2,686,203 2,356,739