Tips for the best calf barn design

Many have stated in retrospect that far too little time was spent to design the calf barn. Careful work planning pays for itself quickly; the better everything is thought out, the fewer surprises there will be.


New calf barn is clean, fresh and draft-free

How much time do you spend with milk feeding?


Adequate calf barn ventilation is vital

The future building should take into account the needs of both the calves and those who work there, whatever the season. One of the most important factors in designing a calf barn is ventilation. However, this is usually given far too little attention. It is too strict to keep the calf from going to the side of the frost. At that time, we have already made a compromise on ventilation. The best possible ventilation for the calf is natural ventilation supplemented by a Positive pressure tube.

Newborn calves have little resistance, so the air source entering the calf barn must be clean, fresh and draft-free. A properly positioned calf barn is on the windward side of the farm centre to minimize the transmission of airborne pathogens from older heifers and cows.

Do not compromise on Calf barn ventilation!
Do not compromise on Calf barn ventilation!


Work smarter and more comfortable 

As the situation of dairy farms growing bigger it would be even more important to draw attention to the fact that the calf barn operates on the principle of the all-in, all-out system. This means that animals in the same pen arrive and depart at the same time. At the same time, differences in the size and age of the animals are also evened out. With this practice, young and more vulnerable calves are not directly exposed to older calves that may be shedding infectious pathogens.

For calf rearing, there are individual pens, group pens and so-called hybrid models. It may be good practice to keep the calves for the first few days in an individual pen where they are easy to observe and to ensure that each calf learns to drink. At the age of three weeks at the latest, it would be good for the calf to switch to either pair or group rearing. With a friend, it’s easier for a calf to explore and learn something new, and the appropriate curiosity is a necessary skill for a future dairy cow. The suitable group size is a maximum of 8 calves.


Mono-, group- or hybrid rearing: what suits you?


Numerous options are available for feeding milk or milk replacers for calves. However, when choosing a system, it is a good idea to remember that each calf should have its own nipple and feeding container in use. We pay a lot of attention to how we maximize our cow feeding table space. The situation when the calf is drinking milk is at least as important and it should not have to compete for resources during the first weeks of life. In this way, the calf learns the rules of behaviour at a feeding table from an early age and there is no need for a cow to boss other cows. Good table manners are part of good manners, even with calves.

Calf wants to eat in peace

Calf wants to eat in peace


Machines can help the calf barn work

From the employee's point of view, the most physical work in the calf farm is the drying and cleaning of the pens. It would be a good idea to pay attention to the placement and structures of the pens, exterior doors and floor structures with the aim that everything can be done mechanically. And yes, the old bedding of individual pens must also be able to be emptied with machine.

The calf kitchen is the heart of the calf barn. It’s more than just a 6 square meter space with a water basin, floor drain and a few shelves. It is ergonomic, the size meets the needs of the calf barn and is positioned in a way so that it supports its daily functions smoothly. When you start designing a calf barn with 4dBarn experts, you know you´ll also get a working calf kitchen plan.

Because the lifespan of a calf barn can easily be 15 - 20 years it is worth spending enough time to design it. Take into account the different wishes and future needs. When you design a calf barn with 4dBarn, you make sure your calf barn doesn’t become a bottleneck in your farm.

About author

Marjo Posio (MMM)

Calf specialist 4dBarn Oy



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