Why Calves Are Kept in Individual Pens

We all know how cute baby calves are – even if you’ve never been on a farm before! Did you know dairy farmers get to spend tons of one-on-one time with calves? Well, they do! Keeping calves safe and healthy is top priority for dairy farmers. These little ones are the future of their herd which provides the delicious dairy products we get to enjoy every day.

Part of making sure calves are comfortable on the farm means feeding them. Farmers bottle-feed each calf several times each day! But caring for calves is that, plus a lot more. Which is why calves are kept in individual pens until they are strong enough to be moved to group pens with other calves.

Calf Care on a Dairy Farm

  • Every young calf must be monitored for appetite and weight gain to be sure they are on target for their age.
  • Their eyes and noses are checked for any signs of illness.
  • Just the simple step of counting the number of breaths a calf takes while resting or standing can be an indicator of good health or respiratory distress.
  • Calves are very susceptible to pneumonia, so rapid detection and treatment are very important.
  • Calves must be monitored to be sure their manure is the right consistency and color. Calf diarrhea (called “scours”) can be fatal if not treated quickly. Often, the treatment is the veterinarian’s version of Pepto-Bismol and Gatorade – a little different but with similar benefits.

How would you monitor 50 (or 200!) calves for all the above conditions if they were all mixed together in one big pen, and all black and white spotted? You couldn’t – that’s why calves on a dairy have their own little pen until they outgrow the high risks of a newborn. It’s all about the health and safety of those little babies.

Learn more about how dairy cows are cared for here.

By Jordan Manning

Jordan grew up in the cattle industry and uses her love of agriculture every day to help people understand more about their food. She previously worked at the Texas Beef Council. When she's not working, Jordan enjoys cheering for the Aggies. Learn more about Jordan

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