Submitted by Shannon Hoyle
Farmer and ISU Extension and Outreach Value-Added Agriculture Program Assistant
Raising dairy beef calves has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Over the course of the past 16 months raising baby calves, there have been many things that I have learned. There is no system that works for everyone in every situation, but I hope that sharing my experience can help you on your farm.
The number one necessity in successfully raising calves is proper ventilation. I raise calves in a retrofitted 60x40x40 hayshed. The hayshed sits north and south. There are doors on the south end and east side of the shed. There are also two, 4x4 foot fans that we installed on the north end that suck air through the hayshed (negative pressure mechanical ventilation). None, one, or both fans can be turned on by a switch, but they have one speed. Fifty-three individual pens, that we built ourselves, can fit in this shed.
During my first group of calves in this hayshed, we started noticing that calves in the back ¾ of the hayshed were starting to develop some respiratory problems. By this time, it was late May, so the average overnight temperature was 60 degrees and day temperatures in the upper 70’s. This warm air would rise and not exchange with the lower air, and so we concluded that by the time the air flowed to the back ¾ of the shed that it was way above the calf level and not exchanging air. This allowed for the proper environment for respiratory problems to start.
We decided that there needed to be a way to baffle the air so we could get the proper air exchange. We decided to make a baffle out of silage wrap and install it in the middle of the shed. In order for it to work correctly, it had to be cut out to fit the peak of the hay shed. We measured and cut the baffle out in the yard and then installed it with plastic pieces that could help support the weight of the silage wrap on the screws, and then we screwed them into the rafters of the hayshed. The bottom of the baffle comes down to just above the calf pens. The air that is then sucked through the hayshed will run into the baffle and spread out and move to the bottom of the baffle. This allows the fresh air to exchange with dirty air, yet since the baffle is a foot and a half above the calf, it does not create a draft on the calf. As you’ll see in the above picture, we have the east doors open. The fans will pull air from the easiest source. We want to create a tunnel so that the air is even, so we now keep those doors shut.
While we noticed that there was much better ventilation now with one baffle installed in the middle of the shed, we did notice some areas that still had dead-spots where air was not moving. Once this group of calves were weaned and moved to another pen, we made two more baffles and installed one in the front ¼ of the shed and the back ¾ of the shed.
While this system is not perfect, it has allowed us to provide much better ventilation for the calves, and we have seen a significant drop in respiratory issues once the baffles were installed.
Would this system work for you, and wondering where you can get some silage wrap? You have probably noticed the white bags full of different types of feed while you drive around Iowa. Once the feed is removed from those bags, they machine that packs them cannot usually reuse the same material. You could see if they would sell you the wrap once they are done with it.
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