calves in hutches eating
calves in hutches eating

Why Calves Are Kept in Individual Pens

Posted by Patty Littlefield

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tags: Farm Life, Animal Care, Dairy Farming

Remember the old Dion Warwick song, “Just walk on by”? Well, if you are a “calf momma” on a dairy farm, you never “just walk on by.” 

You will be doing a lot more than just passing out bottles of milk. A LOT more.

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 “ground deposits” are 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.
  • The goal is to destroy the bacteria causing the upset, sooth the lining of the stomach and replace fluid and electrolytes. 

Here’s a question for non-farmers: 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? And all walking and mingling around in the pen? You couldn’t – that’s why calves on a dairy have their own little pen and “calf crib” until they outgrow the high risks of a newborn. (See, that makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it?) It’s all about the health and safety of those little babies.

Got questions about calf care? Send them our way, we have answers.

Patty Littlefield

Small Pastures, Big Dreams

I am a long-time home economist who has accepted the realization that I will never be Martha Stewart. I enjoy every moment living in the country, am awestruck by the world of agriculture and have a big case of hero worship for the dairy farm families I work for. I am a dreamer, planner and thinker with a goal of leaving every situation better than I found it.

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