Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

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Dairy farmers share their experiences with different calf housing types, including videos, specs, designs and costs.

Calf housing - case studies and fact sheets

Calf housing doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. This popular series of three to five minute videos takes an in-depth look at your calf housing options.

Fact sheets

These fact sheets give an overview of key factors affecting the design, build and budget of calf housing.

Calf housing design
Facts and figures on shed capacity, space allowance, air space, location, labour efficiencies, roofing and ventilation, cleaning considerations, feed and water, and temperature.
Designing Calf Housing Fact Sheet

Calf housing system comparisons
Covers advantages and disadvantages of igloos, hutches and greenhouse barns. Also covers individual and group housing, enclosed versus open housing, purpose-built and retro-fit facilities.
Calf housing options - Comparison Fact Sheet

Case studies and videos

Purpose built sheds
Got a design in mind? Consider the possibilities of a purpose built shed

Low cost calf housing

Shed kits

Hands-on rearing

Retrofit conversions
Already got a building or usable space on-farm? Consider re-purposing it for your calf house project.


Hutches and igloos
Looking for a quick set-up? Hutches and igloos come pre-built and are transportable.

Lang case study 

Retro-fit conversion of a milking shed

The Lang family farm is located in Tatura VIC. In use as a milking shed until 1997, the Lang family took a five year period to update this self-built shed. The project had a parts cost of $22k.

This group housing system helps rear 260 calves per annum in two batches (70 in autumn and 160 in spring).

Here from Marcus Lang about the family operations and calf housing process.

  • Copy Link Images

    Images of the shed

    Outside of calf housing shed

     

    Inside of calf housing shed

    Inside of calf housing shed feeding

     

    Inside of calf housing shed water

     

    Inside of calf housing shed grain

     

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed structure, roof design, air space, ventilation, shed capacity and process

    Shed structure

    Materials used:

    • Galvanised iron on west wall and roof
    • Plastic sheeting on east wall
    • Cement flooring

    Aspect

    •  Length of shed on east/west orientation

    Dimensions

    • 54.0m L x 9.0m W x 4.4m H

    Roof design

    Pitch (1:4)

    • Difference in height/width: 90 cm in 9.0 m, single pitch from west to east

    Roof height

    •  lowest point 4.0m, highest point 4.9m

    Air space

    Total air space

    •  2138m3

    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3)

    •  11.2m3

    Ventilation

    Type

    •  passive, fan-forced
    • Cooling/airflow:
      6 m wide gap in middle of west wall
      3 m wide gap in middle of south wall
      3m wide gap in middle of north wall
      2 m wide plastic sheeting along the top of 24 m of east wall
      Old building restricting air flow along 20 m of east wall

    Shed capacity

    Maximum number of calves housed at peak

    • 160 calves

    Month of peak use

    •  Sep/Oct

    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (weeks)

    •  0 to 24 hr, calves collected from calving down area once each day

    Age/body weight of calves leaving shed (weeks/kilo of body weight)

    •   8 weeks of age, following weaning

    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use)

    •   4 man hours per day

    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day)

    •  1.1 man hours/50 calves/day

    Process

    Calves are collected once per day following suckling dams for colostrum and an initial feeding of 2 L colostrum/calf.

    The autumn configuration is to only use half the shed for rearing calves. This is 16 pens, each 3.0 x 3.5 m in size. The rest of the shed is used for storing extra gates, troughs and teat feeders required for spring calf rearing. The width of the aisle between to two batches of group pens, 2.0 m, is only just sufficient for easy access and maneuvering of the bike and trailer carrying the milk from the dairy shed.

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen structure, flooring, bedding, feed and water

    Pen structure

    Type

    • Group pens (3.0 x 3.5 m) for 5 calves

    Wall height (mm)

    • 800mm These are purpose built gates.

    Wall materials

    • solid/mesh

    Front

    • gates with metal slots to join them; removable for cleaning shed

    Sides

    • gates with metal slots to join them; removable for cleaning shed

    Back

    • solid wall of west wall; gates with metal slots on east wall

    Process

    Only half of shed was fitted out for calf rearing since autumn calves numbered only 70 compared to 160 calves in spring; all the pen gates can be easily removed to allow for complete cleaning of the calf shed floor and walls (using a pressure hose). Leaving the shed completely empty for several months between batches of calves also allows solar sterilisation of the shed.

     

    Pen flooring

    Type

    • Concrete

    Drainage

    • Concrete slopes (0.5 m in 24 m) from north-south but there is no slope from east-west

    Total floor space per pen (m2)

    • 10.5m2

    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2)

    • 2.1 m2/calf

    Other

    The shed was previously designed as a set of yards and the milking parlour. The slope on the floor is to the centre of the shed (north-south) with no slope on the east-west floor.

     

    Bedding

    Type

    • Wood shavings

    Minimum depth

    • 150mm

    Maintenance

    • New wood shavings added weekly and entire bedding is removed following 8 weeks of milk feeding

    Other

    • Handling and storage system for replacement bedding: Soiled bedding dumped in manure pit at bottom of milking shed

    Feed and water

    Milk feeding system type

    • Teats in batches of 5 per pen

    Milk delivery method

    • (pump/piped, bucket, tank) Whole milk is transported from milking shed in a tank located on a trailer & motor bicycle

    Hay

    • In hay rack in middle of each pen

    Pellets

    • Calf muesli fed in 2.5 m long trough in each pen

    Water

    • Water fed from a bucket, located inside a wheelbarrow tire for stability, on edge of each pen

    Other

    Each calf fed 3-4 L/day (twice daily) for 3 weeks then 3 L/day (once daily) until weaning at 7 to 8 weeks of age. Calves are offered ad lib water and oaten hay from week 1 onward. They are also fed calf muesli (20% protein) from week 1 onward with a gradual change over to calf rearing pellets (18% protein). They are weaned off milk once they are eating 1.5 to 2.0 kg pellets/calf per day.
    The calf pellets are stored in a silo, while the calf muesli is stored in bags.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Cleaning and disinfection, biosecurity, feed prep and storage

    Cleaning & Disinfection

    Type

    •  batch / continuous flow: Lime is placed on the cement floor prior to covering it with new wood shavings

    Other

    •  The calf shed has been located close to the farm house so the farm family can occasionally wander through it to check on calf health and welfare.

    Biosecurity

    Boot / hand washing facilities

    • No strict protocol just rely on common sense

    Access restrictions

    • None

    Separate clothing/boots

    • No

    Housing of sale calves

    • Kept close to access road to sale calf truck for once weekly pickup

    Quarantine area for sick calves

    • Yes, there are several œcalf igloos in which sick calves can be isolated away from the healthy calves.

    Colostrum management, record keeping system

    •  Eartags and date of birth of all calves, and sick calves, are recorded

    Feed preparation and storage

    Facilities (if in calf shed)

    • Sink, fridge, storage cupboard, records / filing cabinet.

    Other

    • Calves are fed pellets twice daily and pens with high intakes are noted for weaning off milk.

Tweddle case study 

Hutches and igloos - biosecurity benefits

Dairy farmer Stuart Tweddle's dry land farm milks 400 cows, located in Darum, VIC. Stuart's calf housing system using 40 hutches and two igloos supports the farm's calving pattern of 300 calves per year, calving continuously from April to November. Project cost approx. $30,000.

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials:
    Walls: polyethylene/plastic
    Roof: polyethylene/plastic
    Floor: sawdust on soil
    External yard: sawdust on soil

    Aspect: Hutches and igloos doors open to the north

    Dimensions:
    Shed structure:
    Hutches - 2200 x 1300 x 1500mm

    External yard/calf paddock:
    Hutches - 2000 x 1400mm
    Igloos -“ 4800 x ~3500mm (av)

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): Difference in height/width: N/A
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): Ventilation to rear and on peak
    Overhang eves (900mm): Size: N/A
    Roof height: Lowest point: 1400mm / Highest point: 1500mm

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): N/A
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): N/A

    Ventilation:

    Type: Passive
    Cooling/airflow:
    Adjustable hatch to south side (opened fully in hot weather)
    Ventilation slots along top of roof
    Open door to the north

    Shed capacity:

    Maximum no calves housed at peak:
    1/hutch (40 hutches)
    10/igloo (2 igloos)
    Month of peak use: April - September
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): N/A
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 40 mins to feed calves twice daily
    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day): 80 mins/50 calves (including feed preparation) Other: Brought up to dairy 1-2x daily. Given colostrum & Ig supplement (Kick Start), tagged & taken to hutch

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: Individual to 3 weeks then grouped in batches of 10
    Wall height (mm): 1500 mm
    Wall materials:
    Weld mesh wall for hutch pens
    4.2m gates for igloos

    Pen flooring:

    Type: Sawdust over pasture
    Drainage: Slight slope in paddock. Hutches pout at bottom of slope first, some drainage lines cut in paddock, New site for each calf
    Total floor space per pen (m20):
    Hutch: (2200+1800) x (1300+1250) = 5.2m2
    Igloo: (4.2x3.5)+(4m circular igloo) = ~28m2
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2):
    Hutch: 5.2m2
    Igloo: 2.8m2

    Bedding:

    Type: Sawdust ($30/m3)
    Minimum depth: 75mm
    Maintenance:
    Hutch: Sawdust put in place then hutch put on top of this. No top up required unless really wet (hutch moved to new site for next calf).
    Igloo: Sawdust put in place. Igloo added. New site per batch.
    Other: Left to compost on site. Limed and smudged at end of season

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: Milk taxi to individual calf feeder. Calves given 2.5L warm fresh milk twice daily
    Milk delivery method: Heated milk taxi (250L) pumped into feeders.
    Hay: hay basket hung off gates
    Pellets: pellet trough inside igloo
    Other: 2.5L twice daily for all calves. Adlib pellets & hay for calves over 3 weeks.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch
    Other: New site & sawdust for each calf/batchHutches & igloos scrubbed with Vircon at end of season.

    Biosecurity:

    Boot / hand washing facilities: none
    Access restrictions: Traffic kept to designated track along side/bottom of slope and away from calves
    Separate clothing/boots: none
    Housing of sale calves: Yes - in separate shed at front to farm
    Quarantine area for sick calves: Treated in igloo, (mortality to weaning less than 2%)
    Other: Given colostrum from fresh cow when first collected (with 24 hours of birth), also immunoglobulin supplement ASAP. Use ˜Queen of Calves'™ probiotic/energy supplement in milk fed twice daily

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): Fresh milk at dairy, heated in 250L milk taxi to 30oC and towed down to calf paddock.

    Hutches and igloos supplied by Daviesway Warragul.Hutches - Calf-Tel Pro II

  • Copy Link Layout

    Layout

    Dimensions (external) of shed and external yards
    Arrangement and dimensions of internal pens
    Layout of main areas (feed prep, quarantine, pens, paths etc) within the shed

Bagot case study 

Purpose-built, low-cost greenhouse barn

Looking for a low-cost calf rearing system, Chris and Charmaine Bagot opted for a self-built greenhouse barn/hot house shed. Based in Jindivick and built mainly from recycled materials, the shed cost around $5,000 (excluding the 2nd hand delaval auto calf). With 150-180 calves reared as one group per year, with older calves removed in batches to separate farm once weaned. With the calving pattern being seasonal in autumn.

Chris Bagot takes you through his purpose-built shed, commenting on the build, maintenance and benefits of this system.

  • Copy Link Images

    Images of the shed

    Bagot calf housing

    Bagot calf housing

    Bagot calf housing

     

    Bagot calf housing

    Bagot calf housing

    Bagot calf housing

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed structure, roof design, air space, ventilation, shed capacity and process

    Shed structure

    Materials used

    • Walls - tin & laser light (recycled)
    • Roof - tin and plastic domed greenhouse roof (plastic over 3/4 inch pipe)
    • Floor €- concrete under feeders / deep wood chips elsewhere
    • External yard - pasture with shelter trees

      Aspect
    • East - west (wind from SW)

    Dimensions:

    • Structure (LxWxH): 24 x 5.45 x 3.2m (domed section), 24 x 4.15 x 2.15m (roofed section)
    • External yard/calf paddock 75m x 30m

    Roof Design

    Pitch (1:4)

    • Difference in height/width: domed roof (5.45 wide & 1.05m high) extension roof (4.15m wide & 0.2m fall) - 5% slope

    Roof height

    • Lowest point 1.95m (south wall of extension), highest point 3.2m (domed roof)

    Air space

    • Total air space (LxWxH) Under green house - 392m3 Under extension - 202m3 Total 594m3
    • Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3) Not applicable - open sides & allowed outside

    Ventilation

    Type

    • Passive - assisted by 2 fans under greenhouse roof if required

    Cooling/airflow

    • Tunnel design - pick up breeze, south wall - 800mm x 2m gaps in wall at 760mm height, north wall - 400mm gap in wall entire length

    Shed capacity

    Maximum no calves housed at peak

    • 120 (last year) up to 150 this year

    Month of peak use

    • March

    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (hrs)

    • 0-12 hrs

    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use)

    • 1.5 hrs/day once all calves started

    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day)

    • 30 minutes/50 calves/day

    Process

     Collection at least twice daily, collection at least twice daily, iodine dip navel, probiotic paste, tagged, colostrum tubed if needed, put in small pen to get started on auto feeder

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen structure, flooring, bedding, feed and water

    Pen structure:

    Type

    • Smaller pens for start up (up to 15 calves) then in to communal pen with access to paddock

    Wall height (mm)

    • 760mm (width of sheet of tin)

    Wall materials (solid/mesh)

    • Front - mesh to feeders tin to paddock (removable - no)
    • Sides - mesh/gates (removable - yes)
    • Back - bottom 800mm tin, laserlite to roof (removable - n)


    Removable

    • Side walls swing back to wall and can be removed for cleaning
    • Solid concrete gutter for scraping against south wall

     

    Pen flooring:

    Type

    •  Concrete for feeding area, deep wood chips over dirt for the rest

    Drainage

    • Sloped concrete to central drain (to effluent pond)

    Total floor space per pen (m2)

    • 231m2 in shed

    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2)

    • 1.5m2 in shed but also access to 2,250m2 in paddock

    Other

    • Feeding, water etc kept on concrete area

    Bedding

    Type

    • Wood chips (sawdust too expensive & gets compacted)

    Minimum depth

    • 300mm

    Maintenance

    • Replaced every 3-4 weeks through season

    Other

    • Composted then spread on paddocks

    Feed and water

    Milk feeding system type

    • DeLaval automatic feeding

    Milk delivery method

    •  (pump, bucket, tank) 4th line in dairy to refrigerated vat. Pumped underground to calf shed. Non-refrigerated vat in calf shed filled up every 2-3 days. Auto milk feeders draw from this.

    Hay

    •  Wire baskets hung from wall 500mm

    Pellets

    • DeLaval auto feeders filled up by bucket

    Water

    • Small drinking dishes on walls Piped water to clean-up/preparation area

    Other

    •  Follow DeLaval plan

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Cleaning and disinfection, biosecurity, feed prep and storage

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type

    •  batch / continuous flow Continuous, run as a mob

    Other

    •  Very low mortalities (3 last year)

    Biosecurity:

    Housing of sale calves

    • Keeps all bull calves

    Quarantine area for sick calves

    •  In small pen next to calf shed (rarely used)

    Other

    • Book kept in shed next to feeders. DeLaval reports & exception list checked daily (middle of the day)

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed)

    •  Wheel barrow to transport pellet buckets

  • Copy Link Layout

    Layout

    Layout of calf housing shed at Bagot.

    Bagot Calf housing layout drawings

Bennett case study 

Purpose-built, open group housing - custom design and a standard kit

At Ashgrove Farm, Elizabeth Town TAS, Paul Bennett rears 1300 calves per year in two batches. For his calf housing system, Paul designed a purpose built shed that could make use of standard gates and railings. The shed was built from a standard kit and the project cost was $150,000 all up.

Paul Bennett shows you around the new shed he designed to comfortably house 700 calves and make life easier for those looking after them.

 

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials: 

    Walls: colourbond at N/S ends. No walls to W/E 
    Roof: colourbond with 1m wide skylight every 5m 
    Floor: concrete & dirt 
    External yard: Nil

    Aspect: Oriented north south - sun in morning & afternoon into calf pens. Prevailing winds from NW
    Dimensions

    Structure (LxWxH):
    70m x 15m x 4.8m 
    External yard/calf paddock: Nil

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): Difference in height/width 1.1:7.5 = 15% = 1:6
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): Nil
    Overhang eves (900mm): 1000mm
    Roof height: lowest point 3.4m, highest point 4.5m

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): Under roofline (no side walls make this measurement irrelevant) 70 X 15 x 4 = 4200m2
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): 4200/400 = 6m2/calf

    Ventilation:

    Type: Passive, forced - passive
    Cooling/airflow: No walls along sides (W/E) of shed (sheep yard gates used) Solid gates to windward side (W) to 1200mm in height

    Shed capacity: 

    Maximum no calves housed at peak: Up to 26 calves per pen x 28 pens = 728. Mostly has 23-25 calves per pen
    Month of peak use: Sept
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): <24 hours="" to="" 10="" weeks="" of="" age="">
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 2 persons x 1.5 hours per day. A single person can feed 700 calves in an hour once all the calves are self feeding.
    Labour hours: / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day)
    Other: Calves brought in early afternoon and tubed

     

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: Group
    Wall height (mm): 1000mm

    Wall materials -  

    Front: rails 

    Sides: solid on concrete, swinging sheep gates (2.15m) x 2 on bedding 

    Back: 2 x sheep yard panels “- solid to west 

    Removable: crush frame 'bows' concreted in

    Pen flooring:

    Type: Concrete and deep litter over dirt
    Drainage: Concrete drains to centre walkway (~2% slope). Centre walkway drains to South end of shed ~5%
    Total floor space per pen (m2): 5m x 7m = 35m2
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2): 35m2 for 26 calves = 1.35m2/calf. Usually 23 calves = 1.5m2/calf

    Bedding:

    Type: Saw dust
    Minimum depth: 300mm
    Maintenance (top-up or replacement) frequency and/or timing: Scrap out at end of season. Completely replace between batches
    Other: Handling and storage system for replacement bedding: Composted & given to gardeners

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: Teat feeders - made to order
    Milk delivery method: (pump, bucket, tank) Pumped from tank on trailer 
    Hay (location/height): Wire net on fence
    Pellets (location/height): Adlib supply from hopper in each pen. Fed by standard herringbone set up from silo into cut away 25L drum 600mm off the floor
    Water (location/height): Nipples in each pen
    Other e.g. hot water system: 4.5L per calf (some over feed) Feeders have a mark in to ensure staff give the correct amount.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch / continuous flow batch: batch
    Other: Aim to move batches further apart once CSD shifted.

    Biosecurity:

    Boot / hand washing facilities: Hose at N end of shed
    Access restrictions: None
    Separate clothing/boots: No
    Housing of sale calves: All calves reared (males too) to protect farm'™s reputation
    Sick calves quarantine pen: Moved to bottom pen - very few problems though
    Other: Colostrum tube fed twice in first 24 hours.Records kept on whiteboard in shed and in note book. No tags on calves at this age

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): None will build portico at N end of shed for storage etc.

Brock case study 

Purpose built, low-cost, free-standing sheds

Nigel Brock is based in Montana TAS, his calf housing system features eight purpose built sheds for 30 calves per shed. Project cost, $15,000 for fencing plus eight home built sheds at $2000 each. The farm's calving pattern is seasonal, rearing 240 calves per year.

Nigel Brock talks about the low cost solution he devised to house his calves in a series of free-standing sheds.

 

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials: 

    Walls: corrugated iron on timber frame
    Roof: corrugated iron on timber frame
    Floor: sawdust over soil
    External yard: pasture

    Aspect: Facing east 

    Dimensions:

    Structure (6mx3mx2.5m): = 18m2  
    External yard/calf paddock: 22m x 200m for each shed = 4,400m2

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): Difference in height/width - 0.5m:3m = 1:6 (single slope to rear)
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): Nil
    Overhang eves (900mm): Nil
    Roof height: lowest point 2.0m, highest point 2.5m

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): Inside only - 42m3 
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): inside only - 1.4m3

    Ventilation:

    Type: Passive, forced - passive
    Cooling/airflow: Open on east wall

    Shed capacity: 

    Maximum no calves housed at peak: 30 per shed, 8 sheds = 240 calves  
    Month of peak use: Aug/Sept
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): Enter at 7-10 days.Leave at 12 weeks
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 1 hour per day to feed 240 calves with 1x 450L calfateria. Will be putting an 1,000L tank at site - avoids towing calfateria back to main dairy 2x for each feeding 
    Other: 450L calfateria does 3 batches = 5L/calf per day

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: Nil.
    Wall height (mm): N/A
    Wall materials: N/A Removable: N/A 

    Pen flooring:

    Type: 150mm sawdust
    Drainage: Nil
    Total floor space per pen (m2): 18m2
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2): 0.5m2 internal
    Other: 4,400m2 per 30 calves

    Bedding:

    Type: Straw, shavings, chips, sand, other
    Minimum depth: sawdust
    Maintenance (top-up or replacement) frequency and/or timing: Just top up at start of season at this stage 
    Other: Handling and storage system for replacement bedding: Nil - not spread out - just rots down

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: Calfeterias - 450L calfateria does 3 batches = 5L/calf per day
    Milk delivery method: (pump, bucket, tank) Calfateria transport to paddock (1km) Putting in 1,000L tank on ute to transport milk from dairy to calf paddock this year 
    Hay (location/height): Wire 'net' on fence
    Pellets (location/height): Using troughs this year (self feeders/round drums in the past
    Water (location/height): Trough in paddock
    Other e.g. hot water system: Nil

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch / continuous flow batch: Single batch only on area then rested for 8 months until next season 
    Other: Sheep graze area when calves not using it -“ no adult cattle.

    Biosecurity:

    Boot / hand washing facilities: none
    Access restrictions: Try not to drive vehicle into paddocks (except with calfateria)
    Separate clothing/boots: No
    Housing of sale calves: In shed at dairy
    Quarantine area for sick calves: Taken back to shed near dairy

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): Nil.

Dornauf case study 

Purpose-built, centralised group housing with computer controlled feeders

Dornauf Dairies runs four farms in Elizabeth Town, TAS. Centralising the dairy's calving system helped reduce labour requirements and increase both biosecurity and calf comfort. This purpose-built shed was provided as kit from a local shed builder. The dairy rears 550-600 calves per year, with a calving pattern of 150-180 in Autumn (April/May) and Spring (Aug/Sept) = 400.

Chris Dornauf takes you through his purpose-built shed that houses 400 calves and features computer controlled feeders for both milk and grain.

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials: 

    Walls: zinc alum 
    Roof: zinc alum & skylights 
    Floor: concrete / gravel 
    External yard: pasture

    Aspect: Facing west to east - (wind from NW)

    Dimensions:

    Structure (LxWxH): 42m x 20m x 5m (4.2m at eaves) 
    External yard/calf paddock: 12 x 0.3Ha

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): Difference in height/width = central ridge 0.8m over 10m = 8% (1:12.5)
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): Nil
    Overhang eves (900mm): Nil
    Roof height: lowest point 4.2m, highest point 5m

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): 3780m3
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): 9.45m3

    Ventilation:

    Type: passive, forced - passive through open doors
    Cooling/airflow: 3 large roller doors to west. 1 large roller door (3m) to east, 6 small roller doors (2m) to sides 

    Shed capacity:

     

    Maximum no calves housed at peak: 400
    Month of peak use: Sept
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): <24 hours="" through="" to="" 60="">
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 1 person takes 6 hours at peak (not including fetching milk & new calves)
    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day): 0.75hours
    Other: Lighting 3 x metal halide globes -“ used 24 hours per day at peak to encourage feed intake.

     

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: Group of 30 to 35 max.
    Wall height (mm): 1000mm
    Wall materials: (solid/mesh)
    Front: welded mesh on steel frame 
    Sides: welded mesh on steel frame 
    Back: zinc alum walls with 2m x 3m roller door

    Removable: Side walls swing back to wall and can be removed for cleaning
    Other: Gates on either side of calf feeding units; can drive ute to pens through central race for unloading

    Pen flooring:

    Type: Concrete, and gravel covered with deep wood shavings
    Drainage: Drainage of concrete at nib wall, 2-3% slope on concrete to nib wall
    Total floor space per pen (m2): 52m2
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2): 52/30 = 1.7m2
    Other: Feeding, water etc kept on concrete area

    Bedding:

    Type: Pine post peelings (wood)
    Minimum depth:150mm
    Maintenance: completely replaced for each batch
    Other: Handling and storage system for replacement bedding: composted and used as mulch on neighbouring berry farm

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: DeLaval automatic feeding units - 12 units servicing 12 pens. Controller - 1 for each 4 units (not networked). Calves fed up to 6L/day (2L every 8 hours)
    Milk delivery method: (pump, bucket, tank) Transported by 1,000L container to 2x refrigerated 3,000L vats in calf shed (milk lasts up to 30 days). Fed milk only - colostrum, antibiotic milk and sale milk if run out.
    Hay: hay racks in paddocks
    Pellets: auto feeders feed up to 2kg per calf, manually top up feeders
    Water: pig nipples in each pen, some paddocks have troughs
    Other: hot water service, wash drum & chemicals, underfloor pipes to supply refrigerated milk to feeder units.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch / continuous flow batch
    Other: sometimes batches follow each other (pens cleaned in between). Lime over gravel, formalin wash over concrete parts.

    Biosecurity:

    Boot / hand washing facilities: none
    Access restrictions: Shed door locked, gate locked to stop entry to area from public road
    Separate clothing/boots: none
    Housing of sale calves: Housed in another separate shed on another property
    Qaurantine area for sick calves: Separate pen made at end of shed
    Other: closed herd but mixing calves from 4 different farms

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): Sink, fridge, storage cupboard, records / filing cabinet. 

Gay case study 

Purpose-built - individual rearing for great growth and earlier weaning

Annie Gay of Coomboona Holsteins is based in Shepparton, VIC. The farm's purpose-built calf housing system features 90 individual pens and eight communal pens with 8-12 calves per pen. The system Individual and group pens inside shed and group pens (each with an igloo) just outside the shed. The project cost above $50,000. Coomboona rears 1000 calves/year, year round.

Annie Gay takes you through her purpose-built shed commenting on the benefits of individual pens and the hands-on approach it offers

 

  • Copy Link Shed specifications

    Shed specifications

    Shed structure:

    Construction materials: 
    Walls: Colour bond
    Roof: Zinc
    Floor: Cement
    External yard: Cement

    Aspect: Car park for building faces the south wall; the winds are predominantly from the south west

    Dimensions:
    Structure (LxWxH): 30.32 x 30.17 x 6.1 m
    External yard/calf paddock: 7.1 x 6.0 m / approx 52 m x 40 m

    Roof Design:

    Pitch (1:4): 7.5 degrees
    Roof openings (50-75mm/3m width): 10 x rotary ventilators (each 300 mm in diameter) located along peak in roof
    Overhang eves (900mm): Nil
    Roof height: lowest point 5.1m, highest point 7.1m

    Air space:

    Total air space (LxWxH): 5580m3
    Air space per calf at peak (6-8m3): 31.7m3

    Ventilation:

    Type: passive, fan-forced
    Cooling/airflow: Sliding doors are located on all 4 sides of the shed, 4 sliding doors provide a maximum of 9.6 m x 5.0 m opening on the south and the north walls while 2 sliding doors provide a maximum of 9.6 x 6.0 m opening on the east and the west walls 

    Shed capacity: 

    Maximum no calves housed at peak: 176 (92 individual pens & 12 per group pen)
    Month of peak use: Sep to Nov & Feb to Mar
    Age of calves entering & leaving shed (wks): Calves remain in the individual pens until 30 days of age and are then bulked in the group pen until about 2 months of age. They are then moved into calf paddocks, each with an igloo, until they are weaned at about 3 months of age, or 110 kg live weight. They then move into outdoor paddocks each with a shade cloth for another one month until they are finally moved to the nearby Coomboona farm.
    Labour requirements (total man-hours/day at peak use): 30 to 50 man hours per day
    Labour hours / 50 calves at peak (total man-hours/50 calves/day): 8.5 to 14.2 man hours/50 calves/day
    Other: The colostrum from each calving cow is tested for quality and graded as A or B after which it is frozen for long term storage. Each new born calf is given colostrum (2 to 3 L/calf at birth followed by another 2 to 3 L/calf within 12 hours of birth) via a nursing bottle prior to being moved into the calf shed. Calves are each given a probiotic paste for their first three days of rearing to improve their immunity and digestion.

  • Copy Link Pen specifications

    Pen specifications

    Pen structure:

    Type: individual / group no of calves per pen.
    92 individual pens: each 2.5 m deep x 1.1 m wide x 1.2 m high, with solid plastic walls between pens
    8 group pens: each 10 m deep x 6.5 m wide with additional area 7.1 x 6.0 m outside the shed for morning feeding.
    8 calf paddocks: 52 x 40 m, each with an igloo
    Wall height (mm): 1.2 m height between individual pens
    Wall materials: (solid/mesh)

    Individual pens

    Front: mesh, permanent
    Sides: solid plastic, permanent
    Back: solid plastic, permanent

    Group pens: mesh/gates on front, sides and back. Back opens onto outside yards via a large sliding door

    Outdoor calf paddocks: Trees are planted along the fence lines between calf paddocks to provide shade. Each paddock also has an igloo for protecting the stock against weather extremes.

    Removable: Side walls swing back to wall and can be removed for cleaning

    Other: The individual pens are in batches of 8 to 12, separated by alleyways (from 2.2 to 3.4 m wide), for ease of access for feeding and cleaning out each pen; the shed has been built to minimise contact between individual calf pens, to maintain high biosecurity for Johne'™s Disease. Hence the use of high grade plastic at the back and side of each pen.

    Pen flooring:

    Type: Concrete throughout the shed and the outside section of the group pens
    Drainage: Each individual pen slopes to the front of the pen (away from the bedding) then into a spoon drain which runs along the middle of the alleyways.
    Total floor space per pen (m2):
    Individual pens: 2.75 m2
    Each group pen: 65 m2 inside the shed and 42.6 m2 outside the shed
    Each calf paddock: 2080 m2 
    Floor space per calf at peak capacity (m2):
    Individual pens: 2.75 m2/calf
    Group pens: 5.4 m2/calf inside and 3.5 m2/calf outside @ 12 calves/ pen

    Bedding:

    Type: The back half of each individual pen is covered with about 110 mm of wood chips (to facilitate drainage) overlain by 110 mm saw dust (for comfort). Each group pen also has an area (approx. 3 x 2 m) of wood chips/saw dust.The front half of each individual pen has a large rubber mat while and the rest of the group pens do not have any bedding material over the concrete floor, for ease of draining effluent
    Minimum depth: 150mm
    110 mm wood chips overlain by 110 mm saw dust, in both the individual and the group pens
    Maintenance: (top-up or replacement)frequency and/or timing
    The bedding in each individual pen is topped up as required and cleaned out when each calf is moved into the group pens. Likewise, the bedding in the group pens is periodically topped up then removed completely when each batch of calves are moved to the calf paddocks.
    Other: Handling and storage system for used bedding
    The soiled bedding is discarded in a nearby bunker and eventually used for fertilising pastures

    Feed and water:

    Milk feeding system type: Calves are only fed calf milk replacer (CMR), which contains 22% fat and 28% protein. It is fed via teats for their first 10 days in the individual pens, then via buckets for the rest of the time. In the group pens, calves are fed CMR via large drums (inside during inclement weather) or via a stainless steel trough when fed in the outside yards each morning. Trough feeding is also used while in the calf paddocks.
    Milk delivery method: (pump, bucket, tank) The CMR is mixed in an old milk vat then distributed to each pen via a tank (and pump) on a trailer towed by a small tractor. To minimise the possibility of feeding into the wrong bucket, each individual pen has three buckets of different colours attached to the front of the pen, a red one for CMR, a black one for water and a green one for calf meal
    Hay: Hay is offered to each calf only in the group pens and calf paddocks
    Pellets: Calves are fed a formulated grain mix while in the individual pens and another formulated grain mix while in the group pens. Bull calves are fed formulated calf pellets in the group pens. The calf meal fed in the individual pens contains 20.8% protein and 13.3 MJ/kg DM of metabolisable energy.
    Water: Water is freely available in buckets in each individual pen and in large drums in the group pens and calf paddocks.
    Other: Calves are fed 4 L/day of CMR (twice daily feeding) for one month while in the individual pens followed by 4 L/day (once daily feeding) for a second month while in the inside group pens, followed by 5 to 6 L/day (once daily feeding) for their last month of milk feeding while in the outside group pens.

  • Copy Link Other infrastructure

    Other infrastructure

    Cleaning & Disinfection:

    Type: batch / continuous flow batch 
    Disinfectants/sanitisers are routinely used for sterilising all equipment used for feeding calves

    Biosecurity:

    Boot / hand washing facilities: Routine
    Access restrictions: Routine
    Separate clothing/boots: Routine
    Housing of sale calves: Sick calves are kept separate from the healthy calves and their feeding equipment (and pens) is cleaned last each day. Staff use a separate set of disposable gloves when attending to each sick animal.
    Qaurantine area for sick calves: See above
    Other: All calf records are kept in a folder for ease of accessing and they are also stored electronically. There are a series of SOP'™s (Standard Operating Procedures) clearly available to calf rearing staff. Each row of individual pens has a white board for recording specific daily observations and staff instructions.

    Feed preparation and storage:

    Facilities (if in calf shed): Formulated calf meals and pellets are stored in a silo. CMR is stored in 20 kg bags.

Initiatives

Dairy Feed tools

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