Calf hutches have proven to be a great option for housing very young calves. When they are used properly (i.e. placed in a well-drained surface, have the opening face south during cool weather and north during warm weather), they provide some important advantages over other housing options.
Benefit 1: Calf Hutches Help Prevent the Spread of Contagious Diseases
The close conditions of the typical cattle barn can be breeding ground for disease. Scours and respiratory conditions like pneumonia are common threats to a young calf, whose immune system is still developing.
The separation of a young sucking calf from other calves and the general population greatly reduces the exposure to harmful disease causing agents and microorganisms. Research has shown that most transmission of disease is primarily from inter-animal contact. Creating some isolation for a young calf removes a significant threat to its health.
Benefit 2: Calf Hutches are Inexpensive
Compared to the cost of building large structures like cattle barns, the low-cost of calf hutches are a great advantage. Individual hutches can be purchased for around $200, and home constructed hutches can be built for even less.
Another great cost advantage to hutches is the ability to expand capacity in small increments as needed. Building a new barn because you have exceeded the existing capacity by a small amount is not cost-effective. With hutches it is much easier to match capacity to actual requirements.
Benefit 3: Calf Hutches are Easy to Clean and Access
Hutches are lightweight and portable – making them easy to clean. They can simply be moved over to a clean area, and then equipment like front-end loaders can make quick work of the accumulated manure and old bedding if needed. Being able to lift them also allows easy access for maintenance, cleaning, or repairs, as well as to the calf and dam.
The portability and easy cleaning of the hutch allows a more sanitary and healthy environment for a young calf.
Benefit 4: Calf Hutch Portability
Hutch portability, as described above, is a great advantage when it comes to cleaning, but it can also be an advantage should a calf become ill. You can move susceptible calves further away from other calves or the general population, or further away from what you feel might be its own contaminated area.
You can also easily move them to different areas of the lot or pasture, or to new areas altogether.
Benefit 5: Calf Hutches Provide More Space
While individual hutches may be small, they are generally larger than stalls within a large cattle barn. Plus, depending on how they are arranged and utilized, hutches can allow more freedom for the calf to exercise and roam outside, as opposed to being penned in a stall in a large barn. More fresh air and comfort means a healthier and happier calf.
Benefit 6: Calf Hutches Allow Greater Control and Management
The separation that comes with the use of hutches allows much more insight to the health and condition of individual calves. For example, when grouped together in a pen or barn, it becomes more difficult to determine which calf is leaving the scours patties. Or, if there are multiple types of scours, which calf is exhibiting which type of scours symptoms.
When calves are separated there is never any doubt about which calf is exhibiting scours symptoms, so a diagnosis and any required treatment can begin without delay.
While hutches can provide some important advantages over large barns or lots, there are also some important considerations when using hutches. First, proper ventilation is always important to a young calf. Whether you buy hutches or build your own, ensuring proper air flow through the hutch is critical. Also, even isolated young calves need clean, dry bedding – especially in cold conditions. A clean, dry, well-ventilated hutch provides the best opportunity for a calf to stay healthy and growing. To learn more on how to prevent calf scours with the use of calf hutches, click here.